Bill Clinton’s legacy

George W. Bush’s presidency has probably enhanced the rose-tinted lenses in which the Clinton years are viewed, but a piece from the New York Times offers a different legacy for Clinton’s foreign adventures: the mark of gastronomic approval:

“It may sound improbable, given the junk-food associations once attached to the man’s name, but few phrases are more bankable to restaurants around the world than this: “Bill Clinton ate here.”

“Somehow, the 42nd president has become an arbiter of international fine dining, conferring a sort of informal Michelin star just by showing up. He is doing for restaurants around the world what George Washington once did in America for places to sleep.

Clinton with hot dog and now-famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik

“Mr. Clinton routinely pops up in guidebooks and newspaper articles about restaurants, invariably with the implication that a beloved gourmand has attached his seal of approval. If you travel enough, you will eventually hear a tip that goes something like: “When you’re in Madrid, try Casa Lucio. Bill Clinton ate there with the King of Spain.” Or “Check out Le Pont de la Tour in London. Bill Clinton loves it…

“…Celebrity endorsements of every variety — movie stars, famous athletes and anyone else with a high Q rating — provide bragging rights for all kinds of restaurants. It’s also true that Mr. Clinton’s patronage in the United States has provided p.r. boosts for places like Il Mulino in Manhattan and Georgia Brown’s in Washington.

“But when it comes to Bill Clinton and overseas restaurants, the upside is on a far greater scale. Managers and owners from Beijing to Iceland and points between say an appearance by Mr. Clinton can be transformational, launching an obscure restaurant to fame and cementing the reputation of well-known favorites. Best of all, the imprimatur seems to last for years.”

In my first year at Oxford during my Masters, the dining hall at University College had a rather modern picture of Clinton hanging on the wall (where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar).

Bill Clinton on the wall of the University College Oxford dining hall

The picture has since been moved, but just like another college now offers a Harry Potter evening for guests, a Bill Clinton night at Univ might draw in a few punters. Although guests probably would have to go on to the Turf Tavern to “not inhale” illegal substances.


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