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Chef Corps to Help Build Bridges through “Culinary Engagement”

“Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool, but sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Some of the nation’s top chefs have signed on to help promote American food and culinary traditions around the world through the new American Chef Corps. The corps is part of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative, launched earlier this month by the Department of State and the James Beard Foundation. USDA is delighted to support this initiative, which is an excellent complement to our ongoing work highlighting the quality, variety, safety and sustainability of U.S. food products to our customers around the world.

As part of this new endeavor, more than 50 renowned U.S. chefs will serve as resources to the State Department, preparing meals for foreign leaders and participating in public diplomacy programs that engage foreign audiences abroad as well as those visiting the United States. This initiative builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power” diplomacy, using a full range of diplomatic tools – in this case, food and hospitality – to enhance how formal diplomacy is conducted. Members of the American Chef Corps will use their culinary skills to cultivate cultural understanding and help strengthen bilateral relationships.

I got a taste of the great things to come when I attended a September 7 kickoff event at the State Department, hosted by Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall and James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro. The reception, which featured delicious dishes prepared by members of the Chef Corps, was attended by more than 200 guests, including representatives from the foreign diplomatic corps, U.S. farm organizations, the food media, and U.S. government agencies. USDA hosted an informational booth at the event and was well represented by many senior officials.

USDA has a long and successful history of promoting U.S. food and agricultural exports around the world. The Foreign Agricultural Service’s network of agricultural attachés, stationed at nearly 100 embassies around the world, frequently partner with cooperating agricultural organizations and chefs to showcase the quality and benefits and American-grown products. We look forward to furthering these efforts through this new partnership with the State Department and the James Beard Foundation.

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