Jack Kennedy liked steak and potatoes but Jackie enjoyed French cuisine. Roger Parker of Gladiuex Catering recalled, "Chocolate was a favorite of Jackie's." Jackie hired René Verdon in 1962. He recounted in 1972, "In the White House, I cooked for the most important people in the world. Working at the White House was challenging because it was a combination of everything – a private home, a hotel and banquet hall. You had to cook family breakfasts in the morning and a state dinner at night. Embassy chefs provided friendly competition too. We always used to try to outdo each other with what we served at parties and dinners."
During her White House years, Jackie Onassis was regarded one of the most influential women in the United States because she actively promoted cultural arts, set fashion trends and planned the first historical guidebook of the White House for visitors. New York University acknowledged, "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, through her genuine concern for the fine arts, has served the people well. She has enhanced the importance of the White House as a national artistic monument." Jackie had said, "...The White House is as it should be – it is all I ever dreamed for it – there are only a few things to be done – I know we are in the red – but after 1963 we will not be."
Betty Beale believed Jack and Jackie had "accomplished what no other President or First Lady had been able to do. They brought youth, beauty and glamor to the seat of the greatest power. They made the political capital the real glamor capital of the United States. It suddenly dawned on everybody that no film stars and no café society celebrities could match the pair in Washington in looks, surroundings, importance, style-setting and endless young and lively interests."
It was said "the influence of the White House is so wide that whatever Jack or Jackie show an interest in has a good chance of enjoying a boom" because newspapers and magazines would "up their Washington coverage to an enormous degree." It was understood women usually wore full-length evening gowns with 3-quarter length white kid gloves attending White House dinners because any women wearing short dresses would feel very out of place.
At the time the entertainment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue often drew from the best in American culture - Pablo Casals; the New York City Ballet; the New York City Opera Company, Lucia Chase's National Ballet Theater and the American Shakespeare Festival group. Jackie was said had changed the whole concept of a state dinner during the "New Frontier" era by making them "less formal, more festive and much, much more fun."
In April 1962, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and Farah Diba arrived in Washington on a 3-day state visit. The Shah of Iran told Jack and Jackie of the "magic meaning" that the word "America" had come to have around the world. At a state dinner Jackie hosted, one reporter remembered, "It was a night for the fashion writers and adjectives were used to describe Queen Farah's gown and jewels."
Standing side by side at the North Portico to greet the Shah and his Queen, Jack told Jackie, "She's outdone you! She's really outdone you." High fashion was the keynore of the night. Farah wore a long golden gown encrusted with sparkling sequins and a white fur cape. Farah also wore a heavy tiara of diamonds encircling 7 enormous emeralds and similar necklace and earrings.
Jackie showed her new hairdo called "brioche" which she pinned an antique diamond sunburst in her hair. Jackie wore a chez Ninon "sleeveless white satin top and a heavy floor length silk skirt in hot pink." She also wore diamond earrings. Jack toasted the Shah saying, "The Shah and I have one thing in common. We both went to Paris with our wives and ended up wondering why we had bothered. We thought we might as well have stayed home." After the state dinner guests were treated to Jerome Robbins' "Ballet: USA" - the first time a ballet company had ever performed in the White House East Room.