How does The Queen like her tea? Is Obama's favourite food really broccoli (or is this just White House spin)? Is it true that Angela Merkel is partial to the odd kebab? There is one group of people who can tell you, and that's Club des Chefs des Chefs, the world’s most exclusive gastronomic society. To join the CCC however you have to pass one simple criteria - you must be the personal chef for a head of state.
<Royal Chef Mark Flanagan and the Club Des Chefs Des Chefs Des Chefs>
Every year 20 of these 'chefs of all chefs' come together from all corners of the world to talk food, share dishes and techniques, and keep their own national traditions alive. In public they may be tight-lipped about their employees food preferences, but within the hallowed confines of the CCC they talk freely. When a head of state is visiting, for example, a chef can call up his fellow chef and ask what that he or she likes to eat, and whether there are any dietary requirements or any special protocol to follow.
Club members take turn to be host in their country and this year it's the turn of Royal Chef Mark Flanagan (pictured above) to be 'tour guide'. It's the first time since the CCC was formed in 1977 that it has come to the UK. Flanagan has been head chef at Buckingham Palace and private chef to the Queen for 12 years, heading up a team of 20 cooks in the Royal Household.
'The chefs are over here for the week and it's my job to oversee the itinerary,' he tells us. 'Today we held a charity lunch for Beyond Food Foundation, a charity which trains and helps the homeless find work in food.'
Next stop was the celebrated Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Hakkasan Hanway Place, where fellow diners and Grazia Daily were treated to the spectacle of 20 or so men and women of different nationalities, all dressed in chef whites with their country's flags embroidered on their collars. Sitting down for dinner they chatted animatedly amongst each other, scrutinizing the menu of roasted silver cod, black pepper rib eye beef and jasmine tea smoked pork ribs.
<President Obama’s chef Cristeta Comerford and some of the Hakassan dishes sampled>
'The rest of the week I'm arranging a food tour of the UK,' explained Flanagan, surveying the room. 'I'm going to show them some of our national food, stopping at Stilton and then Melton Mowbray to sample the pork pies. I took them for fish and chips at The SeaShell of Lisson Grove last night as it was their first night and I wanted to do something casual. It's the best fish and chip shop in London, in the shadow of the Lords Cricket ground. We had proper fish and chips, in newspaper, with vinegar. Many of the chefs here had never had fish and chips before!'
The secretive CCC use these visits as inspiration, but whether pork pies will ever appear on the White House menu we may never know. In the meantime we've done our own little research into the food preferences of some of the world leaders below.
HRH's tastes are well known thanks to her former head chef Darren Mc Grady. ‘The Queen loves chocolate, and the Chocolate Perfection Pie was one of her favourites. It has three layers and I think the word perfection sums up her 60-year reign.' Along with chocolate, the Queen loves Special K, jam sandwiches and her tipple of choice? Gin and Dubonnet.
White House staffers have revealed Obama likes salmon for dinner and trail mix for a snack. Despite his wife’s healthy initiative he is known to like a takeway burger and hotdog, though has insisted in the past that he ‘eats broccoli a lot.’
Merkel loves to cook for herself, and her favourite foods include letcho, a Hungarian vegetable stew, shashlik, a spicy kebab, as well as potato soup, trout and plum cake.
Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD, 0207 927 7000.