In addition to being ‘guardians' of their country's culinary heritage, chefs to the world's most powerful leaders must also strike a delicate balance between health, flavor and diplomacy in their food, a challenge that shifts with every change in head of state.
After meeting in Berlin last week, 25 chefs belonging to one of the most exclusive culinary groups in the world stopped in Paris Monday where they feted Le Club des Chefs des Chefs' 35th anniversary at the Hotel Plaza Athénée, one of the most luxurious addresses in the city.
Despite the importance of the job description, unlike celebrity chefs and media-savvy food personalities there's little fame and glory for those who toil quietly in the shadows of parliamentary and presidential kitchens. But their role in advancing diplomatic relations deserves recognition, said group founder Gilles Bragard.
Just as the way to a man's heart can be through his stomach, sometimes the way to diplomatic resolutions can be found through a good meal.
In Israel, for instance, a charity dinner brought both Israeli and Palestinian chefs together under one roof to create a meal that respected both culinary traditions. The event marked the first time Israeli and Palestinian chefs cooked wearing the same uniform.
"They found peace through gastronomy," Bragard said.
At a particularly "difficult" G8 meeting in France in which leaders were at an impasse, the only thing they could agree on was the food. After calling the head chef to then French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing into the room, leaders rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, saying, "The best moment we had at the summit was thanks to you."
While what's involved in cooking for heads of states may differ throughout the world, many of the chefs share similar cooking philosophies that emphasize local, seasonal, and healthy ingredients. This is particularly true in the White House, where healthy eating crusader and First Lady Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden with chef Cristeta Comerford.
Similarly, the Prince of Monaco and Prince Charles favor local, organically sourced foods from their own gardens.
Unlike restaurants which may cook the same dishes for up to six months at a time, head chefs to heads of state face a different kind of challenge, Bragard added. For instance, cooking three meals a day for the same family requires an enormous culinary repertoire.
"They have to invent new meals every day."