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The Way to a
Country’s Heart?
riting in the Sept. 4
, food critic
Tom Sietsema
reports on an ambitious new State
Department program to use food as a
diplomatic tool. Initiated by Chief of
Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall and
blessed by her boss, Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Diplomatic
Culinary Partnership aims to “elevate the
role of culinary engagement in America’s
formal and public diplomacy eforts.”
Te State Department ofcially
launched the DCP at a Sept. 7 reception,
building on a longtime informal partner
ship with th
e James Beard Foundation,
named for the late dean of American
cooking. “James used to say, ‘Food is
our common ground,’” says Beard
Foundation President Susan Ungaro.
“He would be thrilled by chefs getting
recognition in ways they never have
Among other elements, the wide-
ranging initiative creates an American
Chef Corps, a network of culinary
leaders from across the United States
who can be deployed to promote
American cooking and agricultural
products abroad. Participants might
meet with an embassy, cook a lunch,
post blogs, write articles or speak at
events, explains Marshall.
Such outreach predates the
Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, of
course. Sietsema notes that during the
Chicago NATO Summit in May, world
leaders enjoyed snack-size tastes of such
Windy City favorites as deep-dish pizzas,
popcorn and pierogis.
“All of our eating is purposeful,”
wherever it takes place, says U.S. Deputy
Chief of Protocol Natalie Jones. “Tere’s
a message behind everything.”
Recipients of the State Chef desig-
nation, all unpaid emissaries, will
receive navy-blue jackets set of with
an American fag, the seal of the
State Department and their names
embroidered in gold on the front. Te
honor will be reserved for industry
members who have distinguished
themselves by, say, serving a meal
for the State Department or hosting a
foreign delegation.
Clinton’s interest in food dates to her
days as frst lady, when Marshall served
as her social secretary, and the super-
frequent-fyer’s enthusiasm has only
broadened since. While hunger, security
and nutrition issues are at the top of
her food agenda, she has encouraged
her staf to come up with fresh ways of
extending hospitality to foreign guests
who are possibly jet-lagged or on a
diferent body clock.
A holding room might come with
tea favored to remind them of home
(hibiscus for the Mexicans, cardamom
for the Indians). Table accompaniments
now include spreads, fatbreads and
nuts: welcoming snacks for visitors who
might not have seen food for a while
or who must wait for a speech before
getting a full meal.
“Factoring in others’ tastes,
ceremonies and values is an over-
looked and powerful part of diplomacy,”
Clinton told the
. “Te working
meals I attend with foreign leaders
build stronger bonds between countries
and ofer an important setting to further
the vital diplomatic work we conduct
every day.”
Te program is being supported
with public and private funds from
such contributors as Mars, the food
manufacturing giant, and Lenox, the
high-end china and gift producer.
“Finding partners has not been
difcult,” says Marshall, who adds: “Te
Diplomatic Culinary Partnership is good
for American business.”
50 Years Ago
veryone who has concerned himself
over the years with the problems
of improving the Department of State
and Foreign Service has at one time or
another tried to face up to one central
problem: how to produce in the same
individual ofcer the skills of the foreign
afairs operator and policymaker, and
the skills of the executive director
directing the work of others.
I am reminded of a young manage-
ment specialist we had in the
Department of State some 15 years ago.
He was sent on a familiarization tour
of Foreign Service posts, and returned
quite despondent. Everywhere he went,
he said, he found older FSOs working
themselves to death while young
ofcers sat around without enough to
“How are we going to get those old
boys to learn to delegate their duties?”
he demanded. After he had brooded
over this for a fewminutes, his face lit
up, and he exclaimed, “I’ve got it! We’ll
circularize the feld and ask every post
to list their indispensable men. Then
we’ll retire all the indispensable men,
and start over!”
—From“Executive Ability
in the Foreign Service,” by
Frank Snowden Hopkins;
November 1962