Winning Hearts and Minds Through Food
When it comes to diplomacy, food matters. That’s the message Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants to send by championing the State Department’s global chef program.
Launched Friday in a reception with expertly prepared American cuisine, The Diplomatic Culinary Program showcases 80 of America’s top chefs who will prepare meals for foreign leaders visiting the United States, as well as travel abroad conducting cooking demonstrations and hosting other global culinary experts.
“Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool. But I think it’s the oldest diplomatic tool,” said Clinton in a video played at the launch. “Sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can. Certainly some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had with my counterparts all over the world have taken place over breakfasts, lunches and dinners.”
Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall who heads the State Department’s Office of the Chief Protocol, which is in charge of the initiative, hopes that American chefs chosen will have the same influence world-wide “By showcasing the best of American cuisine and creativity, we can show our guests a bit about ourselves,” says Marshall. “Likewise, by incorporating elements of our visitor’s culture, we can demonstrate respect and a desire to connect and engage.”
Some of the chefs who are part of the program, co-sponsored by the State Department and the James Beard Foundation, have already achieved commercial and celebrity success, but consider their new role as a global food ambassador to be a highlight of their career. Jeffery Adam “Duff” Goldman, the pastry chef who hosts the popular “Ace of Cakes” on the Food Network, says he’s excited about the possibilities of being able to relate art and food. This fall he will visit Bogota, Colombia, doing a cake decorating instruction course for an expected 6,000 people.
“Culinary diplomats make so much sense because we’re fun,” says Goldman. “Language and food are universal. We don’t have to speak the same language to know what spicy is.”