Gone are the days when French presidents brought renowned French chefs with them on official trips abroad.

During a visit to Washington earlier this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, proved they were perfectly happy sampling local cuisine and sidled into Ben’s Chili Bowl, a popular, if humble, eatery favored by President Barack Obama.

This story first appeared in the April 2, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

By noshing on Ben’s quarter-pound hot dogs, Sarkozy broke tradition with his predecessors, who preferred much fancier fare. Consider late French President François Mitterrand, who enjoyed a very special delicacy: a small songbird called the ortolan, drowned in Armagnac, then flambéed and eaten whole. Or what about Jacques Chirac, famed for his fondness for cooked veal head?

Michelin-star French chef Alain Ducasse is hardly surprised by Sarkozy’s fling with fast food, since the French president isn’t known at home for being much of an epicurean.

“Carla eats well and she likes to eat,” Ducasse says. “But he just eat yogurts and chocolates.”

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