DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now after the speeches wrap up today at the African Leaders Summit, 50 heads of state and the chairman of the African Union will all sit down for supper. You might think of it as a state dinner for an entire continent. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith got a sneak peek at the preparations.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: How do you prepare for a formal dinner for 400, representing 50 nations? There's a lot of chopping.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

KEITH: The chefs were working elbow-to-elbow in the White House's surprisingly compact kitchen, chopping spring onions, small peppers, papaya, chives and green beans. Chris Comerford snaps one of the beans and pops it in her mouth - such is the privilege of the White House executive chef.

CHRIS COMERFORD: This actually came from our kitchen garden. This was just harvested, like, last Friday.

KEITH: The White House garden can't produce nearly enough to feed all of the guests. But Comerford says there will be a touch here and there. The beans will appear in the second course, a chopped salad with buttermilk ranch dressing.

COMERFORD: But we're also adding some nuances of the African spices as well like cinnamon and cumin and things like that, that would give it a different twist. But it would still remind you it's still American in its nature.

KEITH: Comerford says a lot of research went into crafting the menu. She's tested the recipes many times over. But still, Comerford says the hours before a big dinner like this are stressful.

COMERFORD: It is not just a little stressful, it's a lot. But it's a good stress because, like, it's almost like a big choreography. If everybody dances to the same music and, you know, does their position, it should go out perfectly.

KEITH: The first course is a chilled tomato soup with a chickpea flower crouton on top. Then there's the salad, followed by a main course of Wagyu beef with roasted sweet-potato puree and braised collard greens with chilies and coconut milk. And for dessert, fudge cake with vanilla from Madagascar. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

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