Rene Verdon, a French-born chef who brought an air of continental sophistication to the White House under the Kennedys, and then left his post after a clash with the Johnson administration over frozen vegetables and garbanzo beans, died Feb. 2 at his home in San Francisco of undisclosed causes. He was 86.

Verdon, who later ran an acclaimed San Francisco restaurant and won admirers including Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, was most renowned for his five-year tenure at the White House.

When he arrived at the executive mansion in spring 1961, he took over a kitchen that had long been run by caterers and Navy stewards and not known for producing fine food.

That changed under Verdon – a “culinary genius,” The Washington Post said, with refined tastes admired by Jacqueline Kennedy.

A veteran of some of Paris’ best restaurants, Verdon championed seasonal, local food long before it became fashionable. He grew vegetables on the White House roof and herbs in the East Garden.

“I cooked everything fresh,” he told The New York Times in 2009. “If the ingredients are superb, then the cooking can be, and must be, simple.”

In April 1961, his White House debut — a luncheon for British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan — made the front page of The New York Times.

Verdon served trout cooked in Chablis, roast fillet of beef au jus and artichoke bottoms Beaucaire.

“The verdict after the luncheon,” wrote the Times’ Craig Claiborne, “was that there was nothing like French cooking to promote good Anglo-American relations.”

Media coverage of Verdon’s menus helped burnish the Kennedys’ reputation as tastemakers and spurred home cooks across the United States to begin investigating French cuisine.

When the classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” cowritten by Child, appeared in 1961, a wave of Francophile homemakers began turning out souffles, pates and pork rillettes.