An army marches on its stomach, French emperor Napoleon famously said. Today, the world’s diplomacy is conducted over sumptuous repasts! Get set to meet the creators of these diplomatic dinners soon.
Soon after the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly concludes in New York this October, Delhi will host a general assembly of a different kind - a G20 like meeting of the chefs of 25 heads of states.
The Club des Chefs des Chefs is the most exclusive culinary society in the world. Only chefs who cook for presidents and kings and queens are members of this elite club that meets annually to compare recipes and learn culinary traditions from each other. This year they meet for the first time in India from October 23- 28. Rashtrapati Bhavan will roll out the red carpet for the men and women who quietly create magic in powerful kitchens of the world.
Visiting India will be Cristeta Pasia Comerford, a Filipino American chef who is the Obamas’ Executive chef at the White House, Mark Flanagan, who is head chef at Buckingham Palace and offers the queen a red leather bound book of menu suggestions daily, and the chefs of the French, German, Irish, Chinese and Canadian heads of states among others.
Five of these chefs including Montu Saini, executive chef to the President of India, will also cook for a charity dinner that will be held at the Imperial Hotel.
Says Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the President of India, “India has a royal tradition of cooking. Bheema was a chef so was King Nala. Today soft power is used by nations to win friends and food is the biggest binder.”
“Politics divides men, but a good table unites them. Chefs are the best diplomats," says Gilles Bragard, the executive secretary of the Paris based elite culinary club, which he founded in 1977 with just seven chefs.
Today, 25 chefs who work in the world’s most powerful kitchens and are surely privy to some delicious table talk are part of this elite club. But Bragard says the chefs keep all the secrets under their toques and won’t even reveal the favourite dishes of their heads of states. “Jacques Chirac’s chef once spilt the beans that his favourite dish was stuffed veal head,” he says. After that wherever the former French president went the dish was served with boring regularity.
Of course, some heads of states like George Bush made certain dishes hot potato. “I am President of the United States and I am not going to eat any more broccoli, Bush who was made to eat it every day as a child, famously said, banning it from White House and Air Force One. Ironically, broccoli is President Obama’s favourite vegetable.
What about our President? Well, all that Montu Saini lets slip is that his fish is not sourced from Padma river but comes from INA market. Also our Rashtrapati Bhavan often serves organic food and boasts a flavourful herb garden where mint, rosemary, coriander grow.
Bragard says a recipe book of all the chefs will be published soon and the proceeds will go to a charity in America. The culinary ambassadors are sure balancing a lot of things on their plate!