Cornell gives tasty answer to president's question, 'Where's the chicken?'

Bob Baker, left, introduces President Clinton to chicken with his special Cornell barbecue sauce, also enjoyed by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, center. Daughter Chelsea Clinton, far right, accompanied her parents on the New York State Fair tour.

The most influential leader on the planet got a real taste of New York and Cornell University Monday.

President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, who are vacationing in Skaneateles, N.Y., toured the New York State Fair in nearby Syracuse. There they visited the Bakers' Chicken Coop eatery, specifically to savor a taste of the famous Cornell barbecued chicken. Robert Baker, Cornell professor of animal science, created the recipe, which has tempted fair-going palates since 1949.

As the first family arrived at the barbecue stand, Reenie Sandsted, one of Baker's daughters and manager of stand, presented the Clintons with a basket of New York state apples. Then with a smile, the president explained he was hungry, and he placed an executive order: "Those apples look good, but where's the chicken?"

Coming right up. Karen Applebee, another of Baker's daughters, assembled an order of eight Cornell barbecued chicken breasts and some unsweetened iced tea to go.

Sandsted had invited the first lady a month ago (with assistance from Stephen P. Johnson, executive director of government affairs at Cornell) to visit Bakers' Chicken Coop for some Cornell barbecued chicken. Sandsted was a guest at Hillary Clinton's "listening tour" stop at Cornell July 31. The first lady's office thought the visit was a splendid idea and made the arrangements — but made Sandsted promise to keep it hush-hush. In fact, she did not even tell her family.

When it became apparent that President Clinton also would attend the fair, the first lady's office contacted Sandsted.

"Hillary's people called and asked if it was OK to bring Bill to the barbecue stand. 'Of course, by all means,' I told them," Sansted said.

Clinton didn't leave without rendering his position on the Cornell barbecue recipe. As he got into his car to tour the rest of the fair, the president turned to Sandsted and Baker — and gave a big thumbs up.

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