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Pope Eschews Gourmet Food for Simple Fare, Chef Says

September 17, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Though such gourmet delicacies as baby salmon, white truffles and black ravioli with lobster were lavished upon him, Pope John Paul II favored the simple foods - a bowl of soup and a piece of bread with cheese, says a chef who prepared the papal cuisine.

The pontiff was not above opening a pot of soup and serving himself when he was hungry, Reto Martin Ryffel said Thursday.

Ryffel, executive chef of the Los Angeles Hilton and Hilton Towers, was chosen along with assistant chef Ruggero Gadaldi to cook for the pope in Los Angeles.

″He’s really a man of simple tastes,″ said Ryffel, who did a quick change of menus when he learned of the pope’s preferences. The exquisitely planned breakfasts, which had included eggs with Beluga caviar, had to be scrapped completely.

″He and his entourage wanted bread and jam and prosciutto with milk and coffee, a very simple breakfast,″ said Ryffel. ″It’s what they eat in Italy.″

″The pope fell in love with papaya and fresh berries,″ he noted, and that was served at all three breakfasts.

Ryffell related an embarrassing incident caused by extraordinary Secret Service surveillance of the kitchen at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, John Paul’s lodging in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday night, as the pope celebrated Mass at the Los Angeles Coliseum, dinner was on the stove when the Secret Service insisted that everyone leave the kitchen for a security sweep.

″While we were downstairs, the holy father walked in through another entrance with the archbishop and his staff,″ said Ryffel. ″He was very hungry.

″He opened a drawer, took a bowl and ladle, served himself some soup and sat down in the dining room and ate it,″ said Ryffel, who learned of the events from Archbishop Roger Mahony.

″When I came up the first thing he handed me was an empty soup bowl,″ said Ryffel. ″At first we were embarrassed. But Archbishop Mahony said he wished he had a camera to take a picture of it.″

The appetizer of soup, he said, didn’t interfere with the pope’s relish for the rest of the meal - crepe with fontina cheese and white truffles, Seattle baby salmon with spinach, potatoes and zucchini and an assortment of sherbets, cheeses, fruits and coffee.

After most meals, including a lavish lunch prepared for the bishop’s meeting Wednesday, the pope came to the kitchen to congratulate the staff, Ryffel said.

″He’s not on a diet. He eats everything. He’s a healthy mman,″ said Ryffel.

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