Published August 29, 2013
Attention admirers and followers of Western New York cuisine: UB's affordability wasn’t the only thing on campus to grab national attention during President Obama’s dramatic visit.
Also attracting network kudos: UB’s presidential cake.
For sure, this was not just any cake. This one, displayed and served subtly in the national press area – adjacent to the obligatory wings and more progressive healthy choice of roasted vegetables – was a cake fit for a president. “Welcome President Obama,” the culinary calligraphers at UB’s Three Pillars Catering wrote with patriotic-colored frosting.
Atop the commemorative 24-by-18-inch cake (chocolate and vanilla marble with ample buttercream frosting) was UB’s baked version of the presidential seal – in frosting, of course -- complete with an eagle with a shield at its breast and holding ceremonial arrows in its talons.
Included in the steady stream of the stories and dispatches filed by the scores of reporters attending Obama’s speech was one on the cake. It left a deep impression on CNN Senior White House Photojournalist Mark Walz, who entitled his CNN political ticker post “In the eye of the cameraman: This takes the cake."
“In all my years of covering the President,” Walz wrote, “I've never seen a caterer present a sheet cake like this one pictured here. At lunch, Three Pillars Catering brought out a marbled cake with a welcome message and the Presidential Seal. The decorating alone took them an hour and a half, according to Laurie Richeal of Three Pillars. How'd it taste? While it looked good enough to eat, I stuck to my diet and took a pass… the ‘road food’ covering this beat adds up.”
Walz’s discipline over not tasting the cake notwithstanding, his approving blog post was a sweet treat to Campus Dining & Shops, which supervises Three Pillars Catering and won kudos for staff hospitality as well as for the hot meal.
“It's not every day that Three Pillars Catering gets to make a cake for a presidential visit to the University at Buffalo,” said Raymond Kohl, marketing manager for UB Campus Dining & Shops. “So when the opportunity arose, Laurie Richeal, bakery manager, and her team went to work to create a memorable delectable.”
The cake wasn’t the first time UB’s catering service notched national attention.
A few years ago, culinary celebrity Rachael Ray featured a UB-themed farewell meal for college-bound high school graduates in her Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, with UB pennants and admissions office stationery adorning the layout. In tribute to the magazine spread, UB Campus Dining put together a special campus meal featuring the dishes Ray used in her magazine, and invited students and members of the community to a one-time-only dining experience.
And UB's new Crossroads Culinary Center has earned accolades both on campus and off campus for its scope, selection and style.
Walz’s musing about Three Pillars’ catering didn’t stop with the cake.
“I first started covering the White House beat for CNN in 1988, during President Reagan's last year in office,” he wrote. “Ever since then, through all 50 states and 80 different countries, I've followed the man that lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. At most of those presidential events, a local caterer is hired to supply meals for a hungry press corps as we have little time to run to get anything (paid for by the news organizations) and as a result we are well fed.
“Most of the time local fare is highlighted. In New Orleans, I have had jambalaya and ribs in Memphis and Buffalo wings in Buffalo, New York. Yes, today I am in Buffalo, at the University at Buffalo. It's the first stop of President Obama's two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania.”
For Kohl, seeing the full-color picture of his staff’s cake on the CNN site was a perfect ending to an exhausting but memorable and successful day.
“I certainly felt very proud for our bakery and catering department,” Kohl said. “Just to create something that drew national attention from someone who is experienced, been around and who travels with the president so much. For him to make those comments, it was fantastic.”