How George and Barbara Bush Welcomed the Houstonian Hotel Staff Into Their Family
If you travel enough, you'll realize that there are hotels that feel homey, and then there are hotels that feel like home. The iconic Houstonian Hotel is definitely the latter, at least for the Bush family.
President George H. W. and Barbara Bush used the Houstonian as their home address while he was in office, living in The Houstonian's John Staub-designed Manor House while Bush served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Vice President of the United States. When the Manor House was renovated, Mr. and Mrs. Bush moved in to the hotel itself, calling Suite 271 home. While the Bush family was living in Washington, D.C., specifically, in the White House, they would stay on the Houstonian's idyllic property whenever they could make trips back to Texas. Sometimes they would bring their work home with them, too: In 1990, President Bush hosted world leaders in Houston for the G-7 Economic Summit with U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand in attendance. The hotel's Botanical Room played host when the leaders signed economic treaties.
Over the course of the many years that the Bush family spent in the hotel, the staff got to know them, and they got to know the hotel's employees as well. Soon, they were no longer just employees helping their kind, famous guests, but "family" members welcoming each other home. After President Bush lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, the couple once chose Houston as the place to call home for the rest of their years, doing good works in the city they called home, including Barbara's Houston Literacy Foundation. While the Bushes eventually moved out of the Houstonian Hotel, they could frequently be spotted dining at Olivette, the hotel's restaurant and were well known to the staff.
WATCH: Barbara Bush's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
"This was a special place for them. They would come in all the time," Catherine Rodriguez, the head pastry chef at the Houstonian, told Houston's CultureMap website, about the Bush family. "I found them to be so down-to-earth. They knew every server by name. I've been thinking a lot about her this week, and what great role models she and her husband were. They were humble, really wonderful people."
Barbara Bush and Rodriguez were particularly close due to a shared love of cookies. Bush, a mother of six, knew the power of a good chocolate chip cookie and her recipe was so good that in 2016, Rodriguez asked the former First Lady for it. (The secret involves oatmeal and Valrhona chocolate!) According to Rodriguez, Mrs. Bush was "honored" and "flattered" by the request and happily gave Rodriguez her consent for the hotel to bake up batches of cookies. It's just the sort of thing you do for family.
Now, lucky Houstonian guests can taste Bush's cookies on special occasions, always served with a label, that reads: "These cookies are made with gracious permission from Mrs. Bush."