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Rideau Hall executive chef Louis Charest will be preparing an official state dinner for the Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto Tuesday evening, which will include Rankin Inlet caribou, East Coast lobster and more.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Louis Charest wants to make something clear: When Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto dines at Rideau Hall on Tuesday night, there will be no cilantro. Ditto, salsa. And don't even get him started on tortilla chips.

"We're way beyond tacos and nachos here," Mr. Charest, executive chef since 2007, said from his kitchen in the bowels of Governor-General David Johnston's official residence.

But what the 106 guests, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, can expect from their four-course meal is something fresh, healthy and creative – food that represents a blend of Mexican and Canadian cultures that is heavy on flavour and light on stereotypes.

"I wanted to showcase what both countries had in common," Mr. Charest said.

For the 46-year-old chef, it was as much a gut feeling as anything else: the health and athleticism of Mr. Pena Nieto, mirrored in his Canadian host.

Not Mr. Trudeau – although he's in pretty good shape, too – but Mr. Johnston, who Mr. Charest swears, at 74, is a beacon of health.

"He's an athlete. He could have been a hockey player. He's a regular jogger, he's a biker. He's an Ironman. Their Excellencies eat very well," Mr. Charest said of Mr. Johnston and his wife, Sharon, whom he cooks for regularly.

Mr. Charest, who is short-staffed at the moment due to employee vacations and one sous chef's torn quadriceps from a Mud Run, said it usually takes him about three days to research and design the menu, and in this case four days for his team to prepare and cook the meal.

He works on about three state dinners a year – some more difficult than others. He said he remembers having quite the time designing Tanzania's menu, until he discovered a number of lakes in the east African country – so he served his guests perch, a freshwater fish. "I pulled it off," he said, smiling.

Some of Tuesday's meal is plucked from Rideau Hall's back garden. The vegetable course contains end-of-season asparagus, rhubarb and an herb pesto of basil, lemon balm and peppery nasturtium, "which I just harvested an hour ago," Mr. Charest said.

It will be topped with a raw milk organic cheese from Quebec "that has a very, very similar texture and flavour [of] a queso fresco," he said.

The main course will feature a coast-to-coast offering: Rankin Inlet caribou, East Coast lobster, Ontario veal sweetbreads and a tartelette with duck chicharron – a Mexican specialty usually made with pork rinds. The caribou will contain a smoke flavour – replicating the smoked whole pork on offer in Mexico's markets – from the herb heather, which Mr. Charest tasted when he visited Kugluktuk in Nunvaut last summer.

"We were cooking caribou on these giant grills, and we were throwing fresh heather on the grill and it was smoking it live. So I wanted to replicate that," he said.

There will also be cheeses from across Canada, and a strawberry tres leche dessert with mint churros – "a classic," according to the chef. All of it is to be served with military precision in Rideau Hall's elegant ballroom for a secret guest list comprising Mexican and Canadian business people, parliamentarians and everyone in between.

Mr. Charest said he would have liked the opportunity to cook for U.S. President Barack Obama, who is attending the Three Amigos summit with Mr. Pena Nieto and Mr. Trudeau in Ottawa, but only staying for the day on Wednesday.

But alas, the chef will have to wait until the next president is elected. And who knows, maybe come next year he'll be cooking for Donald Trump.

"I'm sure he'd be pretty easy to please," Mr. Charest said of the presumptive Republican nominee. "He's a well-travelled man, and he likes the finer things in life – and Canada has a lot of very fine things to offer."