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World leaders’ top chefs gather in Berlin for Merkel lunch

Chefs of the head of states pose in front of the Brandenburg gate during a meeting of the club "Chefs de Chefs" on July 19, 2012 in Berlin. ©AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE

(BERLIN-AFP) – World leaders’ personal chefs, a group known as one the globe’s most exclusive culinary clubs, gathered in Berlin Thursday to swap tips on how to keep their powerful bosses healthy and happy.

The annual huddle, now in its 35th year, will culminate in a luncheon at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office Friday hosted by the master of her kitchen, Ulrich Kerz, featuring some of the German leader’s personal favourites.

“We will offer a buffet with German specialities including a variety of vegetables and fried fish,” Kerz told AFP.

His colleague at France’s Elysee Palace, Bernard Vaussion, is joining forces with Kerz in honour of the 50th anniversary of the countries’ post-war reconciliation and preparing sea bass, artichokes and creme brulee for dessert.

Participants include the chefs of the Kremlin, the White House, Buckingham Palace, and the parliaments of China and South Africa, for a packed schedule of fine dining, sightseeing and trips to farmers’ markets.

Vaussion, the Elysee’s chef of 40 years, is now cooking for his sixth French president.

Whatever their differences on the best way out of the eurozone crisis, one thing brings the leaders of France and Germany together: both are wild about cheese.

“Nicolas Sarkozy had banished cheese from the Elysee table, but Francois Hollande has brought it back in. Both he and Angela Merkel adore cheese,” said Gilles Bragard, organiser of the annual get-together.

Unfortunately for her, Merkel will only be able to make a brief appearance at the lunch, a spokeswoman said, barely enough time for a bite and a photo opportunity with the chefs.

After Berlin, the group will heading to Paris Saturday ahead of a meeting with the French president Tuesday.

“The aim each year is to explore the cuisine and lifestyle of the country we visit,” explained Bragard, the owner of a kitchen uniform firm. He founded the chefs’ club in 1977 during a dinner at the restaurant of French culinary master Paul Bocuse.

In Paris, they will climb the Eiffel Tower to Alain Ducasse’s Jules Verne restaurant, tucking into a menu featuring crab claw and crunchy turnip, grilled prawns, veal scallops with grilled girolle mushrooms, and wild strawberries.

Back home, Bragard explained how each has to adapt to the tastes of their employers.

“There are things they don’t like. For Francois Hollande, it’s artichokes,” he said.

“Michelle Obama is on a crusade against obesity and is very big on vegetables. And Hillary Clinton got rid of the French chef when she arrived at the White House, she found his cuisine too rich.”

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