Well here you have’em, esteemed members of the Club des Chefs des Chefs in front of Orient-Express’ Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg, during their Russian gathering, 25-27 July, 2011. No, I was not with them this year – I was flying to Sao Paulo, Brazil, but that is another story (I have been with the Club at previous annual events on the Great Wall of China and in Malta).
The Club was founded in 1977 by Gilles Bragard, supplier of chefs’ white jackets, and it is strictly invitation-only for official chefs to Royalty and Heads of State. Current Club Chairman is Christian Garcia – Chef to HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco (presumably recovering from his boss’ wedding a few weeks ago), and Vice Chairman is Mark Flanagan – Chef to HM The Queen (presumably managing without him during her Scottish visit for the wedding of her granddaughter Zara Phillips).
I am thrilled to see there are a couple of gals in the group, namely Cristeta Comerford, Chef to the President of the USA, and Sirkka-Liisa Ruottinen, Chef to the President of Finland, who always seems to have a female chef. I also wonder why the Italian president needs two chefs, namely Luca Frezza and Antonio Galli.
Judging by the official photo, taken with Gilles Bragard, left, and with hotel GM Leon Larkin, everyone had a great time in St Petersburg. I always love staying at this iconic, 301-room hotel, which dates back to 1824. I do not know which room I prefer: I have stayed in 207, overlooking the Russian Museum and the Pushkin Monument in Arts Square gardens.
I love 125, the Amber Suite, named for the Amber Room commissioned by Frederick I of Prussia in 1701, its panels tragically lost somewhere near the Baltic coast during World War II. I love the Fabergé Suite (112), a haven of soft pink and gold colouring, with books on Fabergé and the famous eggs.
The hotel has about half a dozen eating places but my main delight is breakfast in the 1905-vintage Art Deco Restaurant L’Europe. A harpist plays in front of soaring stained glass windows and the buffet includes assortments of caviar and more types of Russian cheeses and cold cuts than one could possibly imagine.
One renowned oligarch breakfasts here daily, always helping himself to the same fare. Start with seven whole rounds of watermelon, and full tumblers of beetroot juice and Smetana (runny sour cream). Go on to salad. Go on to cheese. What a memory of a gorgeous, superior Leading Hotel of the World, www.grandhoteleurope.com