A rather incredible evening on Monday… At short notice, I was invited to a dinner at Mosimann’s for a gathering of the Club des Chefs des Chefs – an elite association of chefs working for heads of state around the world. The reason: so that I could accompany the Chinese delegation, who might otherwise have felt stranded in a sea of non-Chinese-speakers. It was surreal and wonderful to meet the chefs in charge of the kitchens at the White House and Buckingham Palace, as well as the chefs attendant on the King of Thailand and the Irish President, among others. Interestingly, the Chinese delegation were not the personal chefs of the Chinese President, but two of a team of thirty-something culinary experts from all over China who produce state banquets at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Visiting heads of state do not stay in the Chinese president’s official residence while in Beijing, but in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, and we know nothing about the Chinese president’s private catering arrangements.) It was fascinating talking to the Chinese chefs, who were originally from Jiangxi and Liaoning (they and their colleagues take it in turns to attend the Club’s international events), and also a pleasure to be able to make them feel more at home.
The dinner, prepared by Chef Jerome Henry and his team, was designed as a showcase of British produce: starters of chicken liver and truffle parfait, smoked salmon and Devon crab roulade, hand-dived Scottish scallops; then Anton Mosimann’s famous mushroom risotto (delicious); seared lamb loin with braised lamb shoulder; a selection of cheeses; almond tuile with summer berries; coffee and petit fours. I’m happy to report that the Chinese delegation, who deal with ‘Western food’ as well as Chinese regional cuisines in the course of their professional catering lives, enjoyed the food, especially the risotto and the braised lamb shoulder, which reminded them of Chinese red-braising techniques – although I noticed they were less excited than me about the delicious oozy, smelly cheeses.