In 1977, Gilles Bragard, one of the world’s leading makers of chefs uniform and accessories, was at a black-tie event in Paris, where he noticed that many of the chefs in attendance, who headed the kitchens of their respective heads of state, were all wearing Bragard. Since none of them knew each other, he invited them for dinner to restaurant Paul Bocuse, a legendary temple of gastronomy, as a chance to meet and mix. The meal was a success, and Bragard and the eight chefs decided to meet up the following year. This was the beginning of Club des Chefs des Chefs (CCC), arguably the most exclusive gourmet club in the world, which now has 25 members and meets at one of the member nations annually; India joined the society in 1990.
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This year’s conference is being held in Delhi, with the executive chefs to 18 world leaders in attendance, including Cristeta Comerford (chef to President Barack Obama), Mark Flanagan (chef to Queen Elizabeth) and Bernard Vaussion, who has been executive chef to the President of France for the last 40 years, a period which has seen six presidencies. There was to be a delegation of Chinese chefs, who were held up due to a “non-issuance of visas”, which the organisers are trying to remedy.
The club is a repository of soft power, with its founder and members hoping to create a bridge between cultures with the annual meetings. The member chefs are largely based in Europe and the Americas, with an increasing presence in Asia. In South America and Africa, many nations don’t have an executive chef or even a permanent kitchen staff, relying mostly on catering companies.
Montu Saini, chef to President Pranab Mukherjee, organised their itinerary, starting with an introduction to the craft of jalebi-making, which the foreign chefs tried their hand at in the kitchens of Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday, where the President also hosted them for a high-tea. Saini, in tandem with the chefs at The Imperial hotel (where the chefs are staying for their Delhi sojourn), also served the culinary dignitaries some golgappas and chaat. “I would have loved to take the chefs to the streets and have them try our snacks there, but they’re only here for a short duration and we don’t want to expose their stomachs,” said Saini.
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The chefs will be cooking a gala dinner in Delhi for various dignitaries in support of Kailash Satyarthi’s charity for children, a common theme at these events. Last year, they raised funds for the children of Haiti. They will also be visiting Agra and Jaipur via Fatehpur Sikri where they will be hosted by Princess Diya Kumari for a lunch. Also on their itinerary were a visit to Chandni Chowk and a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.