This month, the State Department welcomed 25 chefs and foodies from all over the world to Washington, D.C., as part of an exciting new International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). From Brazil to Vietnam, every country in the world has a unique food culture, and the United States is no exception. Throughout this IVLP, participants are meeting with high profile chefs to discuss the influences of food and culture on American communities.
Their U.S. exchange coincides with the Office of the Chief of Protocol's launch of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, which seeks to elevate the role of culinary engagement in America's formal and public diplomacy efforts. At the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership's launch, U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall discussed how food can connect individuals, leaders, and nations. White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass discussed food's importance to our interactions with others and the growing responsibility of chefs to support healthy eating. Jose Andres, Rick Bayless, Marcus Samuelsson, and 80 other chefs have already signed up to be part of this "American Chef Corps."
The international chefs and foodies met with many in the American Chef Corps throughout their U.S. visit, as they discussed using the shared experience of food to engage foreign audiences and to bring people of varied backgrounds and cultural identities together. The group also saw their work play a larger community role after volunteering at the DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) with American Chef Corps member Rock Harper. The DCCK brings in millions of dollars of donations to provide for the less fortunate in the DC area, and some of the participants were amazed by their charity operation. Everyone enjoyed preparing food for those in need; as one participant said: "When people are full, they are happy. Then they are better to each other."
Together, we're exploring American food culture and building mutual understanding through our shared culinary experiences. I've seen how food has this amazing ability to break down cultural barriers firsthand from Bali to Rio de Janeiro, and a culinary diplomacy exchange is a natural extension. We can't wait to see what these chefs will cook up next!