Every year, a select group of people get together to swap state secrets. I’m not talking about the nuclear codes, trade agreements or defence budgets. These are secrets of a more intimate kind: how does Obama like his steak? What does the queen have for breakfast? Does Angela Merkel prefer ketchup or mayo? Club des Chefs des Chefs, the world’s most exclusive gastronomic society, has a simple membership criteria: you must be the personal chef for a head of state.
Since founding the club in 1977, Gilles Bragard has organised an annual dinner in countries across the world with the aim of promoting diplomatic relations and giving the chefs a chance to gossip about their illustrious bosses. Recent venues include the White House in 2013 and Berlin and Paris in 2012. This month the meet is taking place in the UK for the first time. Personal chef to the Queen Mark Flanagan will welcome CCC members to the UK this July for a visit showcasing the finest in British cuisine. The plan, Flanagan says, is to “introduce the chefs to many of the diverse specialities that the UK has to offer, such as stilton, Melton Mowbray pork pies, and of course fish and chips.”
The society is incredibly secretive about its powerful clientele’s tastes, but we did a bit of digging to shed some light on the eating habits of six world leaders past and present.
Air Force Yum
Woe betide the president who admits to eating anything other than hamburgers, hot-dogs and freedom fries. But looking at Obama’s trim frame, it’s clear he is a bit more discerning than that. His former assistant Reggie Love shed some light on the presidential diet – roasted almonds, raisins, pistachios and milk chocolate – and some of his least favourite, including mayonnaise, salt and vinegar crisps and asparagus.
The vegan president
Fidelity was never Clinton’s strong suit, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that two years after converting to the veganism he confessed to gobbling salmon and omelettes on a weekly basis. Still, the former president deserves respect for lasting as long as he did, and losing 30lb in two years in the process. The diet was suggested by his daughter Chelsea who wanted her father to live as long as possible in order to maximise his time as a grandfather.
As you might expect from elections in which the leader of one seventh of humanity is decided, the Indian campaign trail is arduous. Physical fitness is almost as important as charisma and oratorial skills. The recently elected prime minister of India Narendra Modi starts his day at 5 am with an hour of yoga. He is a vegetarian and fasts for all nine days of Navratri every year, eating only one fruit per day during the Hindu religious festival.
Let her eat cake
The Queen’s chefs aren’t at liberty to say what Lizzie likes, but that hasn’t stopped ex-cooks leaking the odd dietary secret. In 2012, former royal chef Darren McGrady provided a rare glimpse into the life of the queen when she’s not in full ceremonial banqueting mode. Special K, darjeeling tea and boiled eggs are apparently breakfast favourites, while fish is usually on the menu for lunch. For dinner it was usually game or fish again, but not before an afternoon tea including cakes and sandwiches.
An embarrassment of riches
Winston Churchill had many great qualities but abstemiousness wasn’t one of them. According to Dinner with Churchill: Policy-making at the Dinner Table by historian Cita Stelzer, the great man never missed the opportunity tuck into rich food, with venison, caviar and foie gras regularly appearing on Downing St dinner menus during his tenure. When his trench was attacked in 1915, he wrote his wife a letter which included the line: “We hastily seized our eggs and bacon, bread and marmalade and took refuge.” His fondness for a hearty meal was matched only by his fondness for a stiff drink: breakfast was usually accompanied by a glass of white wine.
Eggs and whiskey
It’s said that in the run-up to her first 10 Downing St photo-call in 1979, Thatcher dropped 10kg in a fortnight by consuming only spinach, eggs and whiskey. Even when not crash-dieting, Maggie was hardly adventurous. Diary entries uncovered in 2010 revealed she subsisted on a regular breakfast of eggs and grapefruit, more eggs for lunch and beef or lamb chops for dinner.
The Dorchester is hosting a ticketed charity “Sunday Lunch” on 20 July. The club’s chefs will contribute to a three course lunch menu representing classics from each country. Tickets for the lunch are priced £120 and all proceeds go to the “Beyond Food Foundation”. For more information or to book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org