National Press Club

International chefs meet Obama, serve 200 disadvantaged people, eat lunch in Amish barn

August 2, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich |

White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford told a National Press Club Newsmaker audience Aug. 1 that 20 top chefs would experience American diversity on a week-long visit to the United States.

The chefs, who work for heads of states around the world, prepared a charity lunch for 200 disadvantaged people in New York, ate a barn lunch prepared by Amish people in Lancaster, Pa., and visited restaurants reflecting Irish and Spanish cuisines, she said.

In New York, the visitors also met UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

Because the chefs "are clamoring for a great American hamburger," one will be on the menu later in the week, she said.

NPC Chef Susan Delbert served the visitors a lunch including watermelon, Virginia bison steak and local blueberry ice cream.

The chefs, who met President Barack Obama before visiting the National Press Club, are members of the Club of Chefs des Chefs, which calls itself the most exclusive gastronomic society because members must serve a head of state. The club was founded in 1977 by Gilles Bragard, a French businessman in food-related enterprises, who had observed that chefs serving heads of state did not know each other.

Bragard said that since the chef's club first visited the United States during the Reagan administration Americans have become much more interested in gastronomy and many more excellent restaurants have appeared.

Bragard said the members' purposes are to preserve their national cuisines, serve their heads of state, and contribute to diplomacy by creating a friendly atmosphere. He noted that although, "Politics divide men," food can improve the atmosphere.

He cited a G8 meeting of the heads of state of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United States and United Kingdom at which the atmosphere was difficult. One participant told the chef at the farewell lunch, "the only good moment was about your food," he said.

Shalom Kadosh of Israel recalled choosing a symbolic fish found at the border of Jordan and Israel for a lunch with the Jordanian king and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Several chefs remembered their best moments as when they and their families enjoyed private moments with their heads of state and their families.

The chefs also talked about favorite foods and the importance of serving seasonal, fresh cuisine.

Jesper Vollmark of Denmak said he was fortunate that one of the Danish castles has a garden from which he could pick vegetables at their peak and prepare them immediately.

Christian Garcia of Monaco said his favorite was sea bass with vegetables. "Choosing is easy when you have good food to prepare," he said.