How it feels to be the private chef of a president or prime minister – Robb Report
They call themselves the most exclusive gastronomic company in the world.
Because to become a member of the Chefs of Chefs Club, all the candidates must fulfill one and the same criterion: to be the personal chief of a head of state.
In French, the name Club des Chefs des Chefs is a play on words, using the double meaning of the word “chef” which can mean both boss and chef. A free translation would be “the Club of Chefs to Heads of State”. The group is also sometimes nicknamed the G20 in the world of gastronomy, in a nod to the G7 which was also a French initiative.
Last week, around 20 heads of the world’s most powerful decision-makers – presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings and queens – gathered at the glitzy Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris to resume a 44-year-old tradition of coming together in a country host each year, which had been thwarted by the Covid-19 last year. Chiefs from China, South Korea and South Africa were also unable to attend this year due to the pandemic.
“The great thing about speaking with other chefs at these events is that we share a lot of similarities and challenges,” said Cristeta Comerford, who has served as White House chief executive since 2005. “For us, it’s is about conferring and learning from each other. Visiting each other’s countries also helps us understand this particular head of state at the same time. “
It’s also a rare opportunity to meet chefs from around the world who know the innermost details of the world’s most powerful people, and who carry these secrets close to their chests like classified files: the comfort food their chefs love. late at night ; their food aversions; and any request for strange or surprising food combinations.
“While we’re all classically trained chefs, it’s about the people we serve and the people we try to please,” Comerford said. “It all depends on what they like and their preferences. It’s not about the leader. It’s about making sure everything we do is done right.
As you might expect, Comerford speaks in general and deftly dodges questions about cooking for different administrations, from health-conscious Obamas to Donald Trump, who has an affinity for well-done steaks, KFC and, of course, McDonalds.
– The White House 45 Archived (@ WhiteHouse45) January 15, 2019
But Joseph Korson, chef to the recently ousted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was able to speak more freely about the five years he spent serving the former leader’s family, now that he, too, has left. the official residence of the Prime Minister.
Unlike Comerford and Mark Flanagan, personal chef to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Household, both of whom are public figures, Korson has had to keep a low profile for security reasons. Only his family and closest friends knew about his work, and he purposely went black on social media throughout his residency.
“Israel is a small country and it’s not the kind of place where you want to let people know you’re close to the prime minister,” he told Robb Report. “It could be dangerous. So I kept silent about where I was working.
Korson was a one-man show: apart from being the personal chef of the family cooking three meals a day, each day he served all the meals himself as he was unstaffed. Compared to the heads of great heads of state, Korson describes an unusually intimate and, therefore, “intense” work environment.
“You are there for everything,” he says. “You are there for every state crisis, for every personal problem, you see it all. You have to be resilient and remember why you are there, because it is not always easy to work in such an intense environment.
It was a big departure for the American-born chef who had worked most of his life in the restaurant business, whether running his own restaurant or working for top chefs including Raymond Blanc in the UK. As the personal chef of the Prime Minister of Israel, Korson’s new role was no longer to show off his creativity or culinary prowess in the kitchen, but to respond to the whims and needs of the most powerful man in the land. And it was here that he rediscovered a simple but important aspect of the chef’s profession.
“I think people forget what it’s like to serve. It’s about giving people what they need, before they even know what they need.
With Netanyahu, that meant giving him foods rich in immune-boosting ingredients like garlic, ginger, and lemongrass-infused Thai dishes before a busy international route to help him stay healthy on the road; create meals subject to calorie limits; and the start of a weekly tradition of serving the Head of State his favorite dish of chicken cutlets every Friday for lunch.
Because Korson saw his role as more than just a boss.
“I would say to anyone who wants to work for a head of state, if you have an ego, get rid of it. Be humble. You can’t walk into a place like this with an ego or try to prove yourself or make a name for yourself because at the end of the day you are there to serve. You serve your head of state, your country and your people. If you have an ideology behind it all, you can weather storms. “
French chef Guillaume Gomez echoed similar sentiments. After 25 years of working as executive chef at the Elysee Palace in France, Gomez has been a staunch servant of four presidents and their families, who he said were all “attached” to French gastronomy in different ways: some liked the generous portions, others the lighter meals. , and still others were impressed with the creative and technique-oriented meals.
Earlier this year, Gomez swapped his chef’s jacket for a suit and tie, after being named a ‘gastronomy ambassador’ by French President Emmanuel Macron, a new job created for Gomez and a first for the country. His official title is “Personal Representative of the President of the French Republic” and his role will be to promote French gastronomy, local products and producers both in France and internationally.
When welcoming foreign leaders, Gomez said there are certain ingredients that are likely to be left off the table: game meats, organ meats or offal, for example, which are not suitable for many people.
And while kitchens will always receive a list of foods that the foreign chef doesn’t like or can’t eat under protocol, members of the Chefs des Chefs Club have at their disposal a secret tool to prepare meals that they want. their VIP guests will appreciate: a dedicated “blue line” that allows chefs to call each other to get information about the food preferences of their respective chefs, Gomez said.
“This blue line allows me to call Cristeta at the White House or Mark Flanagan at Buckingham Palace to find out what foods their leaders like.”
It was via the blue line that Gomez consulted Comerford on one of his last meals for an American president: black pork ribs from Bigorre in the Hautes-Pyrénées region in southwestern France, and tart with apples, Gomez said.
The meal was for Donald Trump.
He said, ‘It was amazing. “”