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Executive chef for former W.Va. governors dies

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 11:32 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Executive Chef VanBuren Henderson died Friday at the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House in Huntington.

The Huntington native served as a chef for former West Virginia governors Cecil Underwood, Arch Moore and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, as well as a chef for Tyrone Power, John D. Rockefeller and Richard Nixon.

Henderson first became interested in food service as proprietor of a drive-in restaurant. He attended Army Cook and Bakery school.

During his time in the U.S. Army, which he served during World War II and the Korean War, he became acquainted with a caterer. While helping the caterer prepare for parties, Henderson learned the possibilities available in food decoration.

He went on to learn more about food decoration while working with Hermann Rausch, famed chef and former executive food director of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

"One of the greatest experiences I've had was the course of study I've been sent to, such as the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven, Conn.," Henderson said in a previous interview.

While working at the Greenhills Country Club in Ravenswood, W.Va., Henderson received a phone call from former Governor Moore, asking him to come work at the governor's mansion as chef.

"I said 'No' a couple times after that because I liked Greenhills. But later I decided it might be an experience. And it has. It isn't the challenge and doesn't have the problems of jobs I've held in big hotels and inns," Henderson said in an interview with the Herald-Dispatch in 1975.

Henderson eventually accepted the invitation and became Moore's chef on June 1, 1974.

"With our varied staff here at the mansion, we are glad to have someone with Mr. Henderson's experience," said Shelley Riley Moore, Arch Moore's wife, in a former interview. "He is easy to work with."

Mrs. Moore was a particular fan of the way Henderson prepared Cordon Bleu and his onion soup.

Henderson also previously worked at the Frederick Hotel in Huntington.

"I worked under and learned to cook in every language -- Greek, German, Dutch, French, Spanish -- you name it, and I ate it," Henderson said in a previous interview.

Henderson was preceded in death by his wife, Laura Treavel Mounts Henderson, and three children. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.

Funeral service will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at Reger Funeral Chapel, Huntington. Burial to follow at White Chapel Memorial Gardens, Barboursville. Visitation will be one our prior to service at the funeral home.