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The economic summit: A 'Kitchen Cabinet' of American chefs

By JEANNE LESEM, UPI Family Editor

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, of West Germany, is on a diet and can only eat steak. President Francois Mitterand, of France, reportedly has asked for no cream sauces with his meals at the economic summit conference starting May 28 in Williamsburg, Va.

Have they considered the alternatives? The opening dinner will feature North Carolina barbecue with a peppery ketchup sauce. Sunday lunch includes ketchup and horseradish sauce with the seafood buffet. Sunday dinner, Louisiana-style batter-fried crab claws with garlic mayonnaise and roast duck with Louisana pecan sauce. Monday lunch includes salsa picante, a very peppery Tex-Mex tomato sauce. History may record it as either the culinary coup of the century -- or Reagan's Revenge.

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It's all part of President Reagan's plan to showcase American regional food at its finest. The menus were planned by a 'kitchen cabinet' consisting of a top newspaper food editor and seven of America's finest regional chefs, who will also help with the cooking.

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Chef-owner Paul Prudhomme is bringing his own staff from his K-Paul's Restaurant in New Orleans, but the other six guest chefs will be assisted by Colonial Williamsburg people, said Pierre Monet, an executive chef at Colonial Williamsburg and coordinator for the visiting chefs.

Each of the five meals will be served at a different site.

The state dinner is scheduled for the gardens at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, with the Williamsburg Inn's Regency Room as back-up in case of rain, Monet added.

About 1,500 people will be served daily, including the entourages of the heads of state of seven countries. The first dinner, May 28, will feature the North Carolina style barbecue and some Cajun, creole and other southern specialties, including cheese and chili cornbread. Sunday's lunch will be a seafood buffet. Dinner that night will get back to Louisiana style food with such dishes as Cajun popcorn (batter-fried crayfish), broiled redfish with oyster sauce and shrimp and a Creole salad. Monday's lunch will feature such Tex-Mex dishes as nachos, chili con carne, pinto beans, tortillas, stuffed chilies, fish tamales, filet of beef with chili con queso stuffing. The desserts will include papaya or mango ice cream and guava shells with cream cheese and crackers.

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The closing dinner will start with American caviar and feature specialties by Wolfgang Puck, a much-heralded Los Angeles chef, and Maida Heatter, the nation's grande dame of desserts.

Puck is owner-chef of Spago, which is famous for its innovative American-style food. Miss Heatter, a former dessert chef for some Miami, Fla., area restaurants, has written four highly acclaimed dessert cookbooks.

The other guest chefs are Wayne Monk, sometimes called the barbecue king of North Carolina (his home is Lexington); Tom Slough, a Jackson, Miss., businessman and expert catfish cook; owner Leo Steiner of New York's Carnegie Delicatessen; and Zarela Martinez, formerly of El Paso, Texas, and now a New Yorker.

Craig Claiborne, food editor of The New York Times and an American regional cookery enthusiast, was recruited by the White House to plan the menus and organize the guest chefs team.

He had met the Reagans only once.

'I was invited to a White House dinner for the Indonesian president last October,' Claiborne said in a telephone interview. 'I was told I would sit with the great gourmet of the White House.'

The gourmet turned out to be Michael K. Deaver, the deputy chief of staff, who asked casually if Claiborne would think about planning the summit menus.

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'I found it very exciting. Six or eight weeks passed, then Deaver's office called and asked if we could meet in New York.

'They gave me carte blanche on the whole thing,' Claiborne said. He said he had no idea who first suggested he organize a team of guest chefs to prepare American regional fare at the international conference.

He is scheduled to attend it, he said. 'It will be fascinating to see how they (world leaders) greet the spicy Louisiana and Tex-Mex food.'

Classical French cuisine has long been traditional for state occasions in international circles.

In his job Claiborne has interviewed hundreds of chefs and has become good friends with many.

Has he made any enemies by leaving them out of the summit seven?

'No, not really,' he said, adding that he simply chose those whom he knew were logical for the meals he had in mind.

His one regret, he said, was not being able to work grits and Philadelphia scrapple into the menus.

'They wouldn't fit,' he said, 'but I hope (the conference delegates) will order scrapple and grits and country sausages with their room service breakfasts.'

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