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Elite Chefs Group Marks Gustatory Reunion

August 7, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Chefs in white hats huddled with one another Friday while at the other end of a chandeliered, mirrored hallway members of a military color guard talked shop about carrying flags.

In the dining room, musicians tuned up, white-gloved waiters took their places and a small fountain splashed quitely under the lights.

Another lunch in Washington.

As a fellow with a thick French accent and another man with a chime announced it was time to eat, the chefs who cook for kings, princes and politicians marched to their tables and sat down instead of heading for the kitchen.

This crowd is not easily pleased, said Michele Marcais, executive chef of the Mayflower Hotel, where Club des Chefs des Chefs, a tiny organization whose members feed hungry heads of state and royalty, was having its 10th annual reunion.

″They are not common people,″ the cook said of the cooks for whom he cooked. ″They might be humble but they are not common.″

So far, nobody has complained, he said.

The hotel, which spent three months planning for the occasion, made every effort to cater to those who serve, according to James M. Biggar Jr., manager of the Mayflower. For example, as the two dozen chefs ate breakfast, their white jackets were taken out and pressed so they would look crisp for a photo session with President Reagan at the White House, whose chef, Henry Haller, is president of the club.

″Very good. I’m impressed,″ said Graham Newbould, who wound up a 4 1/2 -year stint earlier this year as chef to Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Newbould, who now is chef in a hotel-castle in Scotland, won’t talk about whether the Prince of Wales eats his Brussels sprouts.

But he makes no secret of his own likes and dislikes: the sandwich on the plane ride to America was terrible, and, yes, he does occasionally duck into a McDonald’s to grab a bite. ″It’s all right to fill a gap,″ he said.

The club’s annual gatherings are social occasions, although when the chefs get together, they talk about work, Newbould said. But this is not the place for trading recipes.

″That’s probably the last thing that we talk about,″ Newbould said. ″All the chefs have got their own ideas.″

Among the chefs in the club are Paul Charleux, who cooks for Monaco’s Prince Rainier; Otto Goebel, chef to Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz; Joel Normand, chef to French President Francois Mitterand; Ismat Tavson, who is Jordanian King Hussein’s chef; and Richard Perez, chef to Spain’s King Juan Carlos.

After letting Friday’s lunch of salade de Californie and peche de Virginie pochee settle, the chefs were heading for a dinner of barbecue.

Before coming to Washington, the chefs spent last weekend dining in New York.

They meet again next year in West Germany.

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