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Novak Zone: Interview with Chef Roland Mesnier

Aired September 25, 2004 - 09:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from the CNN center. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Drew Griffin.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. It is 9:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 6:00 a.m. out West. Thanks so much for starting your day with us.

GRIFFIN: Going to take a live look now. This is Florida's emergency center. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Florida Governor Jeb Bush is getting ready to start a news conference yet again on prepping his state for Hurricane Jeanne this time, the fourth hurricane in five weeks.

We want to know if we're going to stay with this right now or are we going to wait -- we're just going to keep talking here until the governor comes. And we have Rob Marciano on set, the latest, Rob, on this Hurricane Jeanne?

NGUYEN: Still a category two, correct, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Category two, but it strengthened overnight. Winds of 105 miles an hour, and one of the reasons that Florida residents are concerned is that we're highly confident now that it's going to make landfall across the central east coast of Florida later on this after -- actually tonight and into early part of tomorrow.

NGUYEN: All right. We're going to take a listen now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... a storm that is dangerous and strengthening, Hurricane Jeanne. Overnight, Hurricane Jeanne has sped up. Ben Nelson will give you more details on expected landfall and intensity.

But I think it's important for all Florida residents on the east coast to understand that the situation is deteriorating rapidly. This storm is strengthening. And any resemblance that they think this storm has to Frances, where Frances was a weakening storm, has been misguided. This storm is actually forecast to intensify.

So again, we are urging all residents along Florida's east coast that are in evacuation zones to heed those evacuation orders, move to higher ground.

State emergency response team and our federal partners from FEMA and other federal agencies are mobilizing resources to rapidly respond back into the areas of impact.

But again, we cannot prevent loss of life if people don't act. We cannot meet basic needs if people don't evacuate to safety. All that will be for naught if people fail to act to protect themselves and their family.

With that, I'd like to give you Ben Nelson to give you an update on, again, a very dangerous strengthening hurricane. Ben?

BEN NELSON: Good morning.

Once again, our state is faced with a very serious situation today. This morning, Hurricane Jeanne, this is a category two hurricane, it's in the process of strengthening. It's currently located 190 miles to the east of West Palm Beach. The windfield overnight has expanded. Tropical storm-force winds are now out to 205 miles from the center of Jeanne. The hurricane-force winds are out to about 70 miles from Jeanne.

As Craig said, we had a storm that sped up overnight. It's now moving towards the west at 14 miles per hour. This will place tropical storm-force winds onshore early this afternoon into the Palm Beach and Martin County area. And we'll have rain bands even before that, later this morning. So we'll have deteriorating conditions all along the east coast as the day wears on today, and of course inland areas will begin to feel those effects later this afternoon and this evening.

As far as the forecast, again, we expect Jeanne to strengthen. It is in the process of doing that right now based on what we're getting from the Hurricane Hunter reports. We expect Jeanne to reach category three strength later this afternoon as it moves over Grand Bahama and Abaco Island, and again, overnight tonight, we expect the landfall somewhere just after midnight.

And again, that area is expected to be really from -- anywhere from Martin County up through Bravard. But again, we're still a ways out, so Palm Beach County still could see a direct impact from the storm if it does not turn as expected.

Storm surge along the east coast is expected to be in the five- to seven-foot range. Some of the inlet areas could see values up to eight feet. And if Jeanne were to suddenly strengthen, those values would go up a few feet. But the east coast is susceptible to very large and battering wave action. And we saw what large and battering waves can do with Ivan over in the panhandle here just a week or so ago.

As far as rainfall, again, we're expecting six to 12 inches of rain on the path of Jeanne. Jeanne very well could go right up the spine of the state after moving -- making landfall overnight tonight, and we could see hurricane-force winds again in the Orlando area for the third time in the last six weeks as we move on into the morning and afternoon hours on Sunday. Six to 12 inches of rainfall would present an extreme flood threat, considering what Charley and Frances has already dropped over these areas during the past six weeks. And with that, I will introduce the governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Ben.

This morning's storm update reminds us, once again, that every storm is different. And I sincerely hope that Floridians on our east coast will take this to heart. Where Frances was a slow storm, Jeanne has sped up and is moving quickly to our coast, and it is getting bigger and stronger.

So the folks that are living in the -- on the coastal areas of our state, I hope that they don't think that whatever they just went through and survived, that the next storm will be just like it, and, therefore, they can do, they can ride this one out. There's some indications, there's some reports that people are not evacuating as they've been asked to do.

This storm could hit land as a category three or even a possible category four storm. Remember that the storms' -- the power and the damage done by these storms isn't incremental. If you are a category one and go to two, it is not an incremental change. This -- the devastation grows geometrically by these storms. So this storm will be stronger than Frances.

Those in evacuation zones along the east coast and the inland should move quickly, as storm-force winds will begin as early as noon. This is the time, this morning, for people to act. Evacuation should not be tens of miles -- or should be tens of miles, not hundreds of miles. And people should probably move west, not north, since the storm will be moving north.

People on the barrier islands who think they can ride this storm out should think again. As Ivan proved to us, the devastation on the barrier islands and Pensacola -- in the Pensacola area was brutal. And I'll just see if the cameras can get a picture of what Perdito Key looks like.

Maybe people on the east coast don't realize the power of these storms. Not only will the winds be fierce, but the storm surge is also something that is -- just wrecks havoc to property in these areas. It is not safe to stay on the barrier islands. And this is the time to leave.

If you are asked to evacuate, the safest -- if you are not asked to evacuate, the safest place may be your own home. Gather enough food and water to last for several days, and make that sure you have -- if you are taking prescription medicines for your health, that you have stocked up on those as well.

Prepare to be without electricity by having flashlights and batteries and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a battery-operated radio to make sure that you are prepared and you can be informed on what's going on after the storm passes.

We are committed to prepare for any potential impact from Hurricane Jeanne, even though our resources are stretched. We are well organized to provide relief as quickly as possible.

Florida's natural beauty is matched only by the spirit of its people. And we've seen that over the last six weeks, how people have come together to help neighbors and to help their friends and to make sure their families are safe. Our perseverance will help us recover from any challenge Mother Nature throws our way.

I would like to, if you don't mind, also make a statement in Spanish.

(speaks in Spanish)

GRIFFIN: Governors Jeb Bush of Florida at the state emergency response team, spending maybe more time there than in the governor's mansion these days as his state prepares for the fourth hurricane in five weeks.

Want to bring in Rob Marciano on the very latest on this. He is talking about a strengthening storm and strengthening even further than it is.

NGUYEN: Yes, category three, maybe even possibly category four?

MARCIANO: Well, that's, that's a possibility, yes. I mean, it's strengthening now. And, you know, he hit the nail on the head. Every storm is different. Every storm has its own personality. Although this is taking a similar track to Frances, it is moving faster. Frances was moving slow. It's strengthening. Frances was weakening as it approached the shoreline. And so it's going to be more of a wind event than it will be a rain event, and that means that there could be more damage (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NGUYEN: Now, you say it's moving faster.


NGUYEN: Is that necessarily a good thing?

MARCIANO: Well, it's a good thing for rainfall, but it's a bad thing for wind damage...

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: ... because on the right side of the storm, the increased forward speed will only add more damage to the right side of the storm. What are we looking at here, Drew, do you know?

GRIFFIN: These are live pictures from WFTV. I don't know exactly where. But it looks like people are putting -- these are probably tarps that have been put on from damage from shingles in the past. So they're having to deal with this.

MARCIANO: Well, the winds from Frances, certainly, were strong enough to rip shingles off rooves, even though it was only a category two storm when it rolled in. GRIFFIN: There, Rob, you can see -- yes, we can actually see some of the tiles that have ripped away. And they put the trap up. Now, the tar's about to blow away. So these people got a lot of problems.

MARCIANO: Just three weeks ago, and a lot of these folks haven't even -- you know, just now beginning to get power back. And, I mean, they just, they just have to be very weary.

NGUYEN: And quickly, the governor was saying that the winds, tropical-force winds, could start as early as noon today.

MARCIANO: That's correct. We've already got them wind gusts to 29 miles an hour from Daytona all the way down to West Palm Beach. So winds will be increasing as we go through the next couple of hours and throughout the afternoon, we'll get tropical storm-force winds probably sometime after 6:00 p.m., we'll get hurricane-force winds again.

Are we going to the director of meteorology in the Bahama Weather Center, or did we cancel that?

GRIFFIN: OK. We'll do that. I don't know if we're going to do that now, or are we going to do that in a minute? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

MARCIANO: All right, now. Arthur Rolle is with us. He's the director of meteorology from the Bahama Weather Center out of Nassau. We took -- we lots of times go to Miami for our own weather center, but right now, the Bahamas are getting hammered again with this hurricane.

Good morning to you, sir. What is going on right now, I mean, specifically in the Abacos and Grand Bahama?

ARTHUR ROLLE, BAHAMA WEATHER CENTER (on phone): Just now, the eye is over Mashaba (ph) on Hopetown, Abaco. And the system is moving to the west at 14 miles per hour. Heavy rain and strong winds now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Grand Bahama. You may recall that recently we had the attack of Hurricane Frances, which destroyed many homes in that area, particularly in the West End part of the island.

Our report from Abaco this morning was that they were experiencing flooding and very, very strong winds.

MARCIANO: Well, let's compare this a little bit more to Frances. That was just three weeks ago. The southern part of the Bahamas not as affected by Jeanne as much as they were when Frances came through? Is that accurate?

ROLLE: That is accurate. Jeanne is concentrating on the northwest and central Bahamas more so than the southeast. We have not issued any type of warning or advisory for the southeast Bahamas, mainly the central and northwest.

GRIFFIN: All right, Mr. Rolle, director of meteorology at the Bahama Weather Center, thanks for your time. We know you have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a busy afternoon ahead of you. And best of luck weathering yet another hurricane through the northwestern Bahamas. It's...

ROLLE: Thank you.

GRIFFIN: As you mentioned, they're getting hit pretty hard across the northern part of (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NGUYEN: A dangerous season for hurricanes.

MARCIANO: Very, yes, these storm have not been weak. I mean, they haven't been little guys just rolling up the coastline. A lot of them have been major hurricanes, if not major hurricanes, they've been cat two. So it's -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE), this season, the entire season will go down in the history books for sure.

NGUYEN: And the Bahamas feeling it right now.

GRIFFIN: Yes, and when it's through by the end of the today, it could dump up to 10 inches of rain in the Bahamas. Hundreds of people there have taken to shelters, in churches and in schools on those islands. Just a couple hours ago, Matt Lorch from our affiliate WPLG filed this report.


MATT LORCH, REPORTER, WPLG: We have all heard about the eye of a hurricane. This is what it looks like. Take a look. Dead calm. And go ahead now as we pan skyward. Blue sky. This is the middle of the hurricane, the eye of the hurricane.

What a change from just an hour and a half ago, when we saw the worst of what Hurricane Jeanne, a category two hurricane, has to offer. Sustained winds of roughly 100 miles per hour. We saws hard, driving rain. As we pan across the beachfront here at the resort where we're staying on Marsh Harbor, you can see that there are a few trees down. There is mostly cosmetic damage, we're told, to the resort.

The main concern here on Abaco Island with this storm was the storm surge. The winds were coming out of the northwest, and the northwest portion of Marsh Harbor, the town where we are staying, is vulnerable to storm surge.

Earlier, reports said three to four feet as far as the storm surge. Seawater right up to people's doorsteps who live on the west side of the island.

We can tell you that at about 6:30 this morning, the phone lines went down. We lost power here on the island much sooner than that.

But once again, we are in the eye of the storm. We've all heard about it. This is what it feels like. We are now being told that the backside of this storm is heading our way. We expect to see those fierce winds and driving rain once again, and we hope to bring it to you. On Abaco Island, I'm Matt Lorch. Now back to you.


GRIFFIN: An eerie report there. Matt Lorch, in the eye of the storm, WPLG in Nassau, Bahamas.

Well, just as West Palm residents started recovering after Hurricane Frances, here comes Jeanne.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes. Plus, the steady stream of violence in Iraq. We're going to tell you about that. What will it take for the U.S. to win?

GRIFFIN: And Hurricane Jeanne has picked up steam overnight and is strengthening and heading right toward the central Florida coastline. We will give you an update after this break, plus a peek at the rest of the forecast across country.

Here is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the satellite imagery. Another mean storm heading towards Florida.

We'll be right back.


GRIFFIN: The terrorists in Iraq have grown ruthless, apparently more organized, and it doesn't show any signs of disappearing.

Retired Brigadier General David Grange comes to us from near Chicago with his assessment of the military challenges ahead.

And there's conflicting information, general, on whether or not we do have enough troops, we don't have enough troops, or whether or not things are stable in most areas of the country or not.

The e-mail question this morning we've been asking is, are there enough troops to do this job? I'll ask that to you.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Sure. The -- I think there's enough troops right now to do the job. And what they'll do is, they'll surge troops on a temporary basis, Americans, if there's not enough Iraqis trained to cover the elections. Right now the enemy has a full-court press. It'll increase in intensity instead of decrease, all the way up to our elections and the elections in Iraq.

GRIFFIN: Some of the generals telling us majority of Iraq under control by December, and, in fact, these, they have these no-go zones which are shrinking. Do you agree with that?

GRANGE: Well, I think most of the country is under control. The information I get from people is that most of the areas are OK. It's just that there's some really hardcore areas controlled, in some cases, by insurgents and terrorists, that will eventually have to be cleared out and, I believe, before the elections. GRIFFIN: So how do you do that? Can you clear those out by simply surrounding them and starving them out, or do you have to go in?

GRANGE: No, because the enemy use people for cover, for camouflage. They manipulate the lives of civilians in order to enhance their ability to survive in an urban area. So you really can't starve them out. You do have to cordon off a surrounding area. But eventually you have to go in by foot, root them out, and either capture or to kill them.

GRIFFIN: The move of the Iraqi government and the U.S. forces going to Syria, trying to seal that border and stop terrorists from crossing, that's going to be important.

GRANGE: Very important. And in the past, probably today, insurgents do come across the Syrian border just like they do across the Iranian border. And I know that we have, I believe, given an ultimatum to Assad in Syria, but he is one of the biggest problems. He supports insurgents moving into Iraq to support the counter- government operations.

GRIFFIN: Prime Minister (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iyad Allawi this week said he does want more troops on the ground, but he wants them to be Iraqi troops, not U.S. troops. Is that important in terms of his country moving forward?

GRANGE: Yes, I think so, because it's their country. And they have to be -- they have to buy in. They have to be a part of the sacrifice, obviously, to transition to whatever they want. The issue is training enough quality Iraqi police and soldiers to take care of a lot of the problems themselves. And that cannot happen overnight. It is a very tough, long process.

GRIFFIN: General Grange, we thank you. Always interesting to hear your insight on this.

And we have been asking our viewers this morning whether or not they do think there are enough troops, or should there be more troops sent?

NGUYEN: We've got some interesting responses to that. Tom writes, "Was 50,000 enough for Vietnam? I was there. We left, and they fell. Unless we stay forever, it will be the same."

GRIFFIN: Diana, Arkansas, "We do not need any more regular troops in Iraq. What we need is some covert special forces. They need to go in and destroy the terrorist cells. End of problem. Get on with democracy."

NGUYEN: And, of course, we appreciate all your responses. We'll continue to have e-mail questions of the day on the weekends right here at CNN. And we'll have continuing coverage of Hurricane Frances -- I always forget (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GRIFFIN: Jeanne, number four. NGUYEN: Jeanne. Frances, Charley, Ivan, Jeanne...

GRIFFIN: Number four.

NGUYEN: Number four.

Stay tuned.


NGUYEN: Welcome back.

Mean Jeanne, as they're calling her, she is headed ashore in Florida, category two, but possibly could be upgraded to a three, maybe even four by the time she hits land.

Rob Marciano has the latest on Jeanne. Hi, there, Rob.

MARCIANO: Hey, guys.


MARCIANO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I was just talking to the boss on the phone. You know, you never want to tell the boss, Hey, I got to go (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NGUYEN: That's right, kind of important.

MARCIANO: I suppose in an efforts to keep our product a little bit more, a little more there. I should just hang up.

Here's the storm. Unfortunately, guys, this thing increased in intensity overnight. It has also picked up speed. Big-time reds and oranges here. It means, just look at that as an amateur, and that tells you that it's increasing in intensity.

And the eye now just heading over Great Abaco and will eventually head over to Grand Bahama as well. And at this rate, it will hit the Florida coastline later on tonight and early tomorrow morning. The eye wall actually will start scraping the coastline likely this evening, figure 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 when the eye wall, or the eye, center of the eye, probably around midnight.

All right. Hurricane warnings are up for the northwestern Bahamas and also from Florida City, Florida, up to St. Augustine and Lake Okochobee as well, which, if this thing continues a westerly track and makes a direct landfall on West Palm Beach as opposed to a little farther north, folks who live on the western side of Lake Okochobee could see a significant storm surge. And that would not be pretty as -- at all.

All right. Here is the latest from the National Hurricane Center. We have winds of 105 miles an hour sustained. That makes it a category two storm. If we get up to 110 or better, or 111 or better, it makes it a category three, or a major hurricane. And that is the forecast. Right now it is about 190 miles offshore. At this track it will head, and it's making landfall somewhere between West Palm Beach and Melbourne, around midnight tonight, as a category three storm, and again, up through Orlando, probably just to the west of Jacksonville, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) decreasing intensity but bring with it a decent amount of rain.

The good news with this system and because it is moving a little bit faster than, say, Frances, it won't bring nearly as much of a flooding rain event, but already saturated from Frances and also from Ivan are parts of western Florida. And these are the watches and warnings that are up for later on today.

But unfortunately with the good comes the bad. Not so much of a flooding issue, but it will be a wind issue, because I think the winds will be stronger with this system.

Already the rain bands beginning to show up on the radarscope, Drew and Betty, and probably in the next hour or two they'll start to see some rainfall in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lauderdale, up to Hollywood, maybe up through West Palm Beach as well.

That's the latest from here. Back to you guys.

GRIFFIN: Rob, because it is actually going to move further inland than we first thought and go up the spine, as they were saying at the emergency response center, will it weaken quicker?

MARCIANO: Well, I suppose so, yes. There's less in the way of Everglades and swamps up that way. And if it were to remain down to the south through the Everglades here, might hold on to its strength. But, yes, it will weaken, because the center of it will get up through land as opposed to skirting the coastline and holding its strength, remaining along that moisture source.

Yes, that's a good assumption. It will weaken quicker than if it were to hug the coastline, so...

GRIFFIN: Just trying to dig out any (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...



MARCIANO: ... silver lining. I like it. It's a good idea. We'll hang with that.


NGUYEN: Well, we want to show you a picture that sent in by a viewer. This was sent in through e-mail. And looks like a postcard. Welcome to Florida. We are here, right in the middle of a hurricane. Pretty sad, but Floridians have been through it time and time again this season. This is the fourth hurricane, and obviously, they are tired of it. No more hurricanes.

GRIFFIN: Wish you were here.

NGUYEN: Yes, really. Not there. A lot of Floridians are heading out.

And still reeling from the damage caused by Hurricane Frances, now West Palm Beach prepares for Jeanne as well, when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.


GRIFFIN: Robert Novak talks to the only man allowed to set things on fire in the White House.

Welcome back. Novak Zone is coming up.

NGUYEN: But first, here is what's happening now in the news.

Hurricane Jeanne, carrying 105 mile-an-hour winds, expected to pick up speeds as it pushes towards Florida. I believe this is Cape coming through the Bahamas. Some 800,000 people from Miami to St. Augustine are under orders to evacuate. Jeanne expected to make landfall along Florida's coast overnight.

In the Middle East, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles near a Palestinian refugee camp. The military says it hit two terror cells. Palestinians say a 9-year-old girl and an elderly man were killed. The army also bulldozing homes in that area.

Oil prices reach a record high in New York trading on fears over supply. Light crude for November closed at $48.88 a barrel Friday.

NGUYEN: Well, there's an old saying in politics, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. This week, Bob Novak shows us that he sure can stand the heat as he mixes politics with pastries, of all things. His guest is chef Roland Mesnier, who just retired after 25 years as the White House chief executive pastry chef.


ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Welcome to The Novak Zone.

We are in the kitchen of my apartment in downtown Washington with Roland Mesnier, the former White House executive pastry chef for 25 years, and author of a new book, "Dessert University," full of very good recipes.

Mr. Mesnier is going to teach me how to make chocolate chip cookies. That's a classic. There's millions of recipes. What is different about your recipe?

CHEF ROLAND MESNIER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF: Well, this particular recipe was actually created at the White House during the Bush 41 administration. When Mrs. Bush was having a lot of children at the White House and she used to do reading to those children, and she came up with the idea that on the way out, it would be nice to give them a nice chocolate chip cookies. Of course, that also means that every time she needed children at the White House to do a reading, they would come for the chocolate chip cookies. You understand that. So I created and developed this recipe at that time.

But I wanted a different chocolate chip cookies. I wanted something that is very moist, that is -- that melt in your mouth and that a lot of chocolate flavor. This is why in my recipe here, I put the molasses in it. And that's what really give it is a nice, chewy cookies.

So we can start putting this recipe together slowly.

NOVAK: OK, go ahead.

MESNIER: And everything, the key to any good baking, everything has to be room temperature. Here we have one cup of butter. We go to put (UNINTELLIGIBLE) away the brown sugar and the regular sugar. Then we're going to start mixing slowly.

GRIFFIN: Do the presidents all like these chocolate chip cookies?

MESNIER: Oh, they love it. You know, there's one thing, Bob, that we must -- that I must tell you right now. You know, I've served five presidents. They disagreed on everything, but not when it comes to chocolate chip cookies.

OK, we're going to add the baking soda and the vanilla. All that has to mix very well. Then we're going to start putting the eggs in it, like one at a time.

GRIFFIN: Do you think people still like dessert as much as they used to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MESNIER: Yes, yes, even with all those diet out there. When a beautiful dessert comes to the table, they're going to go into it, there's no doubt.

GRIFFIN: What was George W. Bush's favorite dessert, do you know??

MESNIER: He likes a lot like creme brulee or chocolate cream pie. He likes manly desserts, what I call manly dessert, meaning, you know, dessert-dessert. No, don't even -- he has a word for that. He said he does not like frou-frou desserts. That's his own word. And he really appreciate dessert, of course. But hey have to be, like, a nice cake, ice cream, thing like that, of that nature.

GRIFFIN: How did you happen to get this job at the White House for...

MESNIER: Well, you know, at the time I was working for the Homestead Hotel in North Spring (ph), Virginia, when we had visiting people from Washington that used to be affiliated with the White House. They used to come and visit the Homestead. And these ladies told me that the -- Mrs. Carter was looking for a new pastry chef, that I should apply for the job.

So I filled out an application. And one day they call me to come to the White House for an interview. Then I met Mrs. Carter. She was so gracious and nice. We talked for 20 minutes. I showed picture and everything. And she was asking several question.

And at the end, she asked me one key question, and that's what got me the job, I believe. She said to me, If you become the White House pastry chef, what are you going to do for us? So I said, Well, I intend to do low-calorie dessert and using a lot of fresh fruit.

NOVAK: That's it.

MESNIER: Then she left me, led me out of the room. Then a few minutes later, the head usher came to see me, and the job was in the pocket, you see.

Now, I'm going to put the flour in here. And now we going to put the real key ingredient here, chocolate chip, chocolate. Chocolate is good for you, you know, very good for you.

NOVAK: Is chocolate good for you? (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MESNIER: Oh, yes. Oh, definitely. See, it's already smell and look totally luscious. I mean, look at this.


MESNIER: Oh, this is just -- you could eat it just like that.


MESNIER: Don't even bake it, just take a spoon and dig in. I know some -- I know a president who would have done it.

NOVAK: Who was that?

MESNIER: President Reagan.

NOVAK: Is that right?

MESNIER: He would have dug right in there with the spoon. I remember when he first came to the White House, I was showing a dessert to Mrs. Reagan. You know, Mrs. Reagan had to approve everything. Then came President Reagan. He had changed clothes already. He came back from the office. He was wearing a blue jean and a checked shirt. And he said, What do we have here? I said, Well, we have a raspberry mousse, Mr. President. Oh, that looks so nice.

And then he look around for spoon. He wanted to taste. And the only thing he could find was a huge kitchen spoon. So he went into the mousse, proceed, and it went all over the shirt. So next thing you know, he's scraping everything off the shirt and eating the mousse from it.

But Mrs. Reagan did not like that very much.

Anyway, here we have the recipe done here. And of course, it should be chilled before you proceed of scooping them out. So here we have the chilled chocolate chip cookies right here, and we're going to place some on these pan here.

NOVAK: You think I'll be able to do this myself now?

MESNIER: Oh, definitely. You see, now, what you do, you just simply take a -- and flatten like this. Just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a bit. It's -- look, it's a easy job, you know. Usually that's -- in any household it is the job for the husband. You know, you understand that. See? And just pack it a little bit, and then, you know, roll it a little bit.

NOVAK: We had one president who had a weight problem. That was President Clinton.


NOVAK: He was always -- did he want you to be a little more low- cal than you would like to be?

MESNIER: Well, I did a lot of low-calorie desserts for him, because not only that, but he was on the -- he had a lot of dietary restrictions, like he couldn't have chocolate, and he couldn't have dairy product. But, you know, President Clinton has his own mind when it came to food.

And I remember one time in one of the banquets we were having, you see, every time when we were having a banquet, and we were serving cakes and mini-chocolate cake, we put a special cake for him on the plate that had no dairy, no chocolate. We really made him a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cake to still be healthy.

And so I was cutting the cake in the dining room for the guests, and he comes to get a piece of cake, and he goes right for a huge piece of chocolate cake. So I stopped him. I said, Mr. President, no, no. I have your cake here. You can't have chocolate cake. He says, Says who? And he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) proceeding eating the cake like he never had it before.

We have some around and baked.


MESNIER: And look at this. Voila.

NOVAK: Voila.

MESNIER: I mean, look at this.


MESNIER: This is the best. You see, look how chewy they are. Look at this, look, you see? The inside is nice and chewy and loaded with chocolate. This is what you want when you do a chocolate chip cookie. This is the best.


MESNIER: I guarantee you. There is no better cookies around than those.

NOVAK: And now the big question for chef Roland Mesnier.

Chef, in all the wonderful recipes in your book, "Dessert University," what's your favorite?

MESNIER: Well, you know, I'm going to surprise you there. I like a good American apple pie.



NOVAK: That's American as apple pie, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MESNIER: Yes, yes.

NOVAK: I'm sure all the presidents are very thankful for your service.


NOVAK: Roland Mesnier, thank you very much.

MESNIER: Thank you for having me.

NOVAK: And thank you for being in The Novak Zone.


NGUYEN: Hey, who wants breakfast when you can have pastries like that? Goodness. Well, you can see more of Bob Novak tonight when he trades his apron in for his three-piece suit on the "CAPITAL GANG." That's at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The guest is Senate minority whip Harry Reid of Nevada.

GRIFFIN: Wonder if he'll bring cookies to the Novak Zone tonight.

Hurricane Jeanne edging closer to Florida every second. Is West Palm Beach ready for the second strike of the season? We'll have a live report ahead.


GRIFFIN: Here are the headlines at this hour.

More fighting and deaths around the insurgent center of Fallujah. Overnight fighting has killed at least seven people, injured a dozen. A baby pulled from the rubble of one home, but not clear yet whether that home was hit in the U.S. air strike. Yesterday four Marines killed in that area.

President Bush and challenger Senator John Kerry are taking the day off from the campaign trail, both preparing for their first presidential debate. It happens Thursday in Florida.

And in Florida, anxiety sweeping across the eastern coast there, even before the first rains of Hurricane Jeanne come ashore. Jeanne forcing the evacuation now of 800,000 people. It is bearing down on the state with winds topping 100 miles an hour. It could be the fourth hurricane to visit the state this season. Pretty sure it will be.

Jeanne's journey, Rob Marciano is going to follow the storm's path. He'll be coming up just a little bit from now.

NGUYEN: Well, Hurricane Jeanne could make history in Florida just after midnight tonight. That's when the eye is expected to make landfall on the state's east coast, as you were just mentioned. And that means a whole lot of bad weather tonight. It could reach category three, a major hurricane, before coming ashore. What is never seen four hurricanes in one season.

And CNN's Susan Candiotti is in West Palm Beach, where plywood sales are very brisk, people trying to load up and head out.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And if they waited until now at this particular home improvement store, Betty, they are out of luck, because the store has already closed. It opened at about 6:00 this morning. And indeed, they were selling a lot of plywood. They have been out of generators. However, they were selling a lot of odds and ends at a brisk business.

And at 9:00, they closed the doors, turning away a lot of disappointed and, quite frankly, slightly panicked people who said, Now what are we going to do? Well, for them, unfortunately, it is too late.

This was the headline in "The Palm Beach Post" yesterday, "Not Again." And today, "Closing In." And, in fact, that's what's happening now here in Palm Beach County, mandatory evacuation orders are now in effect, not only here but in about eight counties up and down Florida's east coast, as people who live in flood-prone areas and in mobile homes have been told to move west, move south, and, if need be, move north if they have time.

People we've spoken with telling us that some of them are, indeed, scared, some of them are tense, but they also tell us they feel, for the most part, better prepared than the last time.

You might recall that Frances hit here just about three weeks ago, and people know that they might be losing power, losing patience, and, in fact, gasoline remains in short supply. We found a lot of gas stations closed yesterday, and very few were open today.

At this home improvement store, there was no panic buying, really, but, again, sales were steady. As we all know, there have never been four recorded storms in a single season in Florida. However, that did happen in Texas back in 1986. Florida Governor Jeb Bush encouraging people to stay strong, be steady, and to try to get through this together.

Back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: History, not the kind of history anyone wants to see, especially after all that they've been through. Thank you so much, Susan.

Want to give you a live picture right now from our affiliate WSBN. This is Deerfield Beach, which is about 30 miles west of West Palm, or miles south, I should say, of West Palm Beach, where Susan Candiotti was. As you can see, the waves are starting to come in. A little bit of wind right there.

And, of course, we will continue to track the hurricane as it comes ashore.

But in the meantime, Jeanne was a tropical storm when it hit Haiti. But it still left death and destruction in its wake. Flood waters are receding, and that is helping workers as they try to get emergency aid to the victims. More than 1,200 people are dead. And officials fear they'll find hundreds more.

Joining us now from New York is Nicholas de Torrente, executive director of Doctors Without Borders.

Good morning to you.


NGUYEN: Well, let's talk about these numbers. They are horrendous, 1,200 dead, over a thousand missing on the ground. How bad is the situation?

DE TORRENTE: Well, the situation is very bad. I mean, you know, as you've been describing this morning, we're talking here about natural disasters. But the impact that it has is really depend a lot on human action. And the fact that there is massive deforestation in Haiti, and there was no early warning.

And that, you know, the storm hit, and the water runoff from the hills was so fast, as flash flooding, that really swept over, and particularly the third-largest city of Haiti, called Gonaives, which is about 100,000 people, and 80 percent of that city is destroyed, the houses have been submerged in water. And people did not have time to leave, and that's what accounts for the very, very high death toll in Gonaives.

NGUYEN: Exactly. And on top of that, there is a lack of clean water. Some people say they haven't had food since last Saturday when the storm hit. What are you doing to help the people of Haiti, and how can you without water and food and shelter in some areas? DE TORRENTE: Well, the relief efforts are getting under way. But they are slow, and they're very insufficient so far. The key need right now, of course, is for clean water and for food. But people have lost everything. And they're very -- some of them are shocked, they're traumatized.

They're -- and they're starting to get angry. And this is at the, you know, the slow pace of the relief effort and the fact that they're, you know, they're really desperate.

So this is leading also to some tensions in the city itself.

NGUYEN: Yes, let's talk about those emotional problems, the trauma that they're going to. You haven't even really begun to scratch the surface there, because you are tending to the immediate needs right now, correct?

DE TORRENTE: Right. We've set up a medical center in one of the -- the only place we could find, you know, dry ground and the foundation to be able to start one.

And there we've been tending basically to first aid needs. People have been wounded, I mean, as they were trying to escape their homes. We've seen a lot of injuries. People have now, you know, been in water conditions for a long time, so a lot of waterlogged skin conditions, and now diarrhea, dehydration among kids.

We're tending to those needs. But I think the need also for psychological support will increase as the, you know, as the days gone by -- as days go by, because people are really traumatized by this. They've lost everything.

And this is not the first of the many disasters that Haiti has gone through this year. As you may recall, earlier this year there was, you know, there was armed uprising and a change of government, and very, very volatile and fragile situation in Haiti today.

NGUYEN: Haitians have been through an awful lot as of late. Nicholas de Torrente, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, thank you for your time and efforts there.

DE TORRENTE: Thank you very much.

NGUYEN: And, of course, you can expect complete coverage of Hurricane Jeanne's movements all day long right here on CNN. We will have live reports from affected areas, and our team of meteorologists will remain on hand to keep you informed as the powerful storm moves ashore.

GRIFFIN: And as soon as we come back, we're going to have an update from Rob Marciano in the Weather Center on exactly where this thing is and where it's going.


GRIFFIN: "ON THE STORY" is coming up next. We're going to go to Christine Romans for an update on that. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, "ON THE STORY": Well, we're "ON THE STORY" from here in Washington, to Texas, New York, and Baghdad. We'll hear the latest from the presidential race from Elaine Quijano and Sasha Johnson. Barbara Starr and Jane Arraf will report on the Iraq war and how it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the halls of the Pentagon to the streets of Tikrit. Andrea Koppel will tell us how President Bush fared at the U.N. this week. And I'm "ON THE STORY" of oil prices, interest rates, and Martha Stewart. That's all coming up, all "ON THE STORY."

GRIFFIN: Sounds like a lot. Sounds like fun. We'll see you then.

NGUYEN: And right now we want to get you up to date on the hurricane as it heads toward Florida. Rob has the latest. Hey, there, Rob.

MARCIANO: Hi, guys.

You can see the outer rain bands beginning to roll in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Broward County. Might very well see some rain (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fall before the morning is done as the eye makes a steady march towards the Florida coastline.

Already in Titusville, right around here, we're looking at winds that are gusting to 30 miles an hour. So the windfield from this storm is very large, tropical storm-force winds go out over 200 miles from the center. So again, a large geographical area, including a very highly populated area, going to be affected by this, and there's going to be power outages across the board again, especially north central parts of Florida.

There it is, here in the northwestern Bahamas. Grad, the Abaco Islands and then Grand Bahama getting hammered with this as the eye wall passes there. It has picked up steam overnight. And it has kept its westerly track.

So no longer do we think that it's going to make a turn and hug the coastline. It now looks like it's going to head inland and head up the spine of the Florida peninsula.

Hurricane warnings are up from St. Augustine down to Florida City. Means that hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. And I would say that they are expected likely within the next 12 hours as well.

Around the rest of the country, and a couple things that will be affecting this storm, high pressure in control across the northern tier, nice weather across Chicago. It's been beautiful across much of north the eastern third for about a week now. And that ridge has kept this storm on its westward track.

This little front will eventually bring it up towards the north. But it looks like that has been delayed. And because of that, the official forecast brings it onshore pretty much a direct hit somewhere between West Palm Beach and Melbourne later on tonight and over the night in through early the part of tomorrow morning. And then there you go.

Orlando expected to get hammered again with probably some hurricane-force winds. Going to be a long afternoon and evening, unfortunately, once again for the folks in Florida. We'll keep you posted.


NGUYEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very rough night. All right, Rob, thank you so much. We'll keep on top on all of this throughout the day.

But that does it for us.

GRIFFIN: Yes, we're going to say goodbye right now, and remind you that CNN will have continuing coverage of this hurricane. And Betty and I will be back tomorrow morning if not earlier, Betty. We'll see you then.

NGUYEN: We'll be back.


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