PARIS (Reuters) - A handful of people in the world know that German Chancellor Angela Merkel loves popping over to Paris because of her penchant for French cuisine, while it’s best to avoid serving artichokes to French President Francois Hollande. They are the top chefs from the kitchens of the world’s leaders, masters of the art of sweetening international relations with a sumptuous meal, who gather in Paris this week to swap recipes and tips on dinner-party diplomacy.

If Winston Churchill was right when he said a century ago that “the stomach governs the world”, then this club of 27 culinary maestros have an unseen influence on leaders’ moods as they seal decisions on everything from the crisis in Syria to the euro zone’s debt woes.

“Presidents come and go, but chefs stay,” said Gilles Bragard, the French businessman who started the club of chefs to the world’s presidents and monarchs in 1977.