The Top 10 Trump Food Controversies of 2017

Yes, there are at least 10

Trump eats on his plane in 2016. Photograph via Trump's Instagram.

Not even the food beat is immune from Donald Trump intrigue. Between restaurant lawsuits and questionable condiment choices, the President has become an inevitable part of local and national dining conversations. Here are the top 10 Trump food controversies this year:

10. Trump asks White House kitchen to recreate McDonald’s

White House chefs have the skill to prepare elaborate state diners, but apparently that’s not enough for Trump. Politico reported that the President tasked the kitchen staff with recreating a McDonald’s quarter-pounder with cheese—no pickles, extra Ketchup—and a fried apple pie. When the results didn’t live up, he sent bodyguard and “Trump whisperer” Keither Schiller on a fast-food run.

9. Trump drinks water in the most awkward way possible

Who knew drinking a sip of water could be such a fiasco? Marco Rubio, that’s who! He got sweet retribution when Trump—who mocked the senator’s awkward water bottle grab during a State of the Union response—had his own dry-mouth incident. Talk about Watergate.

8. Trump reportedly drinks 12 Diet Cokes each day

Maybe drinking water looked so unnatural because the President is more accustomed to cans of Diet Coke? The New York Times reported this month that Trump consumes 12—12!—each day.

7. The Trump hotel charges $39 for an old-fashioned

The Trump hotel easily has the most expensive cocktails in town—the cheapest option is $23—and it has repeatedly raised prices since its opening. But seriously, who wants a $39 old-fashioned?! The drink includes Presidential Dram Single Barrel Rye, a limited-edition whiskey released for the inauguration, with a hand-carved ice cube. But hey, it’s still cheaper than the hotel bar’s $100 martini, which comes with oysters and caviar. Perhaps this is why Trump is a teetotaler?

6. Trump settles lawsuits with José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian

Trump made controversial statements about immigrants. Celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian backed out of restaurants in his DC hotel. Trump sued. The chefs counter-sued. Drama. The lawsuits settled on undisclosed terms this spring, but Andrés—who’s risen to hero status for his hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico—continues to be a thorn in Trump’s side.

5. Trump reportedly ate shark fin soup in Vietnam

For the most part, Trump stuck to familiar foods like burgers and chocolate cake on his five-nation tour of Asia in November. (We didn’t see a single report of chopstick use.) But at a state dinner in Vietnam, the President was served shark-fin soup as part of a seven-course menu, which rankled animal welfare groups. Shark finning, after all, is illegal in the U.S. and responsible for decimating the shark population.

4. Trump rips off Obama’s inauguration cake

That nine-tier cake covered in stars and stripes at Trump’s inaugural ball sure did look familiar. Where had we seen that design before? Oh that’s right, Obama’s inauguration. Buttercream Bakeshop owner Tiffany MacIsaac told the Washington Post a client brought in a photo of the original cake—made by Food Network star and pastry chef Duff Goldman—and asked her team to re-create it. She ultimately donated proceeds to the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. But the real kicker? Trump’s cake wasn’t even cake. “It’s just a Stryofoam cake. It’s not for eating,” MacIsaac said.


3.  Local wine bar owners sue Trump for unfair competition

The owners of Cork Wine Bar claim they’re missing out on business from government officials, lobbyists, foreign dignitaries, and others seeking political influence, because that clientele now feels pressure to instead spend money at the Trump hotel. So, in March, they filed an unfair competition lawsuit against Trump and his Pennsylvania Avenue property. The Trump organization called the lawsuit “a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit” and acted to dismiss it. A judge is currently deciding whether the case should move forward in federal court or DC Superior Court.

2. Black employees at the Trump hotel steakhouse allege racial discrimination

Three black employees of BLT Prime, the steakhouse inside the Trump hotel, allege they missed out on lucrative shifts and faced discriminatory comments from colleagues and customers because of their race. They sued the Trump hotel and its managing director in September and told the Washington Post that their complaints fell on deaf ears.

The Trump organization called the claims “utterly baseless” and pushed responsibility to the “third-party restaurant company” that manages the steakhouse. That company, ESquared Hospitality, disputed the employees’ allegations and told the Post that the employees didn’t voice complaints “through any of the proper channels.” The lawsuit is ongoing.

1. Trump eats his steak well-done with… Ketchup

Much has been said about Trump’s preference for overcooked meat. But the Internet practically lost its mind over his choice of condiment— Ketchup—during the first dining excursion of his presidency (to BLT Prime, of course). There are at least nine better sauces!

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.