Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, more interested in peace than war, has discovered that the unifying power of a shared meal holds true at the diplomatic table, as it does at any dinner table.
Clinton’s innovative vision of “smart power” diplomacy includes food, hospitality, and the dining experience as important tools in conducting formal diplomacy. The State Department has formalized this concept by creating The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative, in cooperation with The James Beard Foundation. Its goal is to cultivate cultural understanding, elevate formal diplomacy, and strengthen bilateral relationships through the shared experience of food.
Clinton’s department has enlisted twenty-five noted American chefs to help lead the way, including Chip Flanagan, executive chef of Ralph’s on the Park in New Orleans; David Guas, chef/owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia; Chris Jakubiec, executive chef of Plume at The Jefferson, DC; and Robert Wiedmaier, chef/owner of Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck in Washington, D.C., Brabo in Alexandria, Virginia, and Mussel Bar in Bethesda, Maryland and Atlantic City, N.J.
The respected American chefs selected for The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership will be participating in one of two key programs. The American Chef Corps is a network of chefs nationwide who will be involved in official U.S. government programs that use food as a foundation for public diplomacy efforts at home and abroad, including International Information Programs, Foreign Agriculture Service, and the State Department’s Education and Cultural Affairs bureau.State Chefs are an elite group of professionals enlisted to collaborate on high-profile State Department events and create special meals for historic occasions.
The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative is being launched at a reception hosted by the State Department’s chief of protocol, Capricia Penavic Marshall, and the president of The James Beard Foundation, Susan Ungaro, in the State Department’s celebrated Benjamin Franklin Room on Friday, September 7, 2012.