Restaurant staff at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel have revealed the bizarre, secret rules of serving the ex-president and his “crazy VIP list”, including a seven-step Diet Coke pour process, making sure he heard the “pop” on the ketchup bottle being opened and ensuring he always has the biggest steak at the table.
From front-of-house managers being forced to dress like “Fox News anchors”, to bartenders making $100,000 in salary and tips, to suppliers deliberately selling the chef rotten vegetables and Hispanic kitchen staff being rejected by family and friends, life at The Trump International Hotel in DC wasn’t easy.
Current and ex staff at the BLT Prime restaurant in the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel have lifted the lid on four-years of “catering to the right wing elite”, in a new expose from The Washingtonian.
In a copy of the ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ given to new staff, the former commander-in-chiefmust be seated at the centrally located Table 72 before “discreetly” offering the ‘germ-phobic’ guest hand-sanitizer, even before the arrival of the pandemic.
The waiter must then carry out a seven-step Diet Coke pouring process complete with four photo exhibits, including where to place your hands on the bottle and bottle-opener and never opening it unless in front of him.
Trump must then be served the same meal each time: shrimp cocktail, made with especially large crustaceans imported just for him, a well-done steak, which must be bigger than any other customer’s, and fries.
He must hear the “pop” of the mini bottle of ketchup being opened, or would send it back.
Former executive chef Bill Williamson told The Washingtonian how staff once got into trouble when a customer appeared to have a larger steak, forcing the chef to custom order 40-ounce tomahawks that were reserved just for the VIP.
“It was the same steak. Both well done. Maybe it was a half ounce bigger or something, I don’t know,” he said.
Working at the BLT was like watching a ‘who’s who’s’ of Trump allies, from White House official Kellyanne Conway, who preferred a booth in the back, to Florida congressman Matt Gaetz who liked to take selfies with fans, to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who ate there so often that staff made him a plaque that read: “RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI PRIVATE OFFICE.”
Trump’s children made infrequent appearances, including Ivanka, who once arrived in her yoga outfit, ordered a margarita and looked like she “didn’t really want to be seen there”, and Tiffany who was branded a “pain” for making multiple reservations for herself and her Georgetown Law friends that she never showed up for.
Staff were forced to take extensive notes on the likes and dislikes of Trump’s “crazy VIP list” as well as being forced to memorize dozens of names and faces to avoid embarrassments.
Including an incident where Michael Cohen, when he was still Trump’s personal lawyer, was turned away for having no reservation. Or taking too long to serve aide Hope Hicks.
Behind the scenes, senior managers gave the appearance of being ‘die-hard Trump fans’, staff told The Washingtonian, but the Democrat-leaning staff learned to hide their distaste in order to cash their sometimes very large pay cheques.
Michel Rivera, a former bartender at the lobby bar, says he pulled in more than $100,000 a year with tips, around $30,000 more than expected, and felt obliged to lie and say: ‘‘Yes, I support the President. He’s an amazing guy.’”
Another restaurant manager revealed that guests would try to bribe her, “like the old Mafia days,” to move them closer to Trump.
She added: “I declined, obviously. I would get fired if we moved someone to Trump’s table.”
As Trump’s more outrageous actions and statements began to build up, some staff, especially the Hispanic ones who worked in the kitchen, found that they were being rejected socially because of who they worked for.
Former executive chef Shawn Matijevich said: “I’d say probably 80 to 90 percent of my kitchen staff was Hispanic. A lot of people that worked there, their friends wouldn’t talk to them anymore. Some of the Hispanic workers, their family wouldn’t talk to them while they were working there, even their back-home family in other countries.”
One manager said he accidentally wore his uniform home one day on the Metro and passengers yelled at him: “Shame on you! How can you work for a person like that? You’re a racist!”
Trump opened the hotel in 2016 in the Old Post Office Building, just before his election to the presidency, suing his first chef Geoffrey Zakarian for his pulling out of the venture because of his allegedly anti-immigrant remarks on the campaign trail.
In 2019 Trump attempted to sell the hotel for $500million; a price considered inflated even before the arrival of the novel coronavirus.
The building has been a frequent target of protests including June last year when a peaceful Black Lives Matter march was held there in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
By the end of 2020, financial documents revealed that the property had taken a 63% hit to its revenue.