By Arun Kumar
Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added a culinary dimension to the exercise of “smart power” by enlisting 80 top chefs including an Indian-American in the aid of diplomacy.
Mumbai native Vikram Sunderam, executive chef at Rasika, a top end Indian restaurant in Washington, is part of the State Department’s new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative.
It was he, who introduced local schoolchildren to “A Taste of India” at a cultural exchange at Blair House, the presidential guest house, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit in Nov 2009.
“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,” Clinton said in a video message Monday on the launch of her new initiative.
“Some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had with my counterparts around the world have taken place over lunch and dinner,” recalled America’s top diplomat dilating on the idea of “culinary engagement.”
The newly formed “American Chef Corps” will help the State Department in preparing meals for foreign leaders, and will participate in public diplomacy programmes that engage foreign audiences abroad as well as those visiting the United States.
Those anointed State Chefs also get a navy jacket with the American flag and their names embroidered in gold.
This month, chefs and food experts from 25 countries are visiting Washington, New York, San Francisco, the Midwest and New Orleans to learn about US food culture in a State Department programme.
The new culinary partnership is part of Clinton’s “smart power” philosophy of using “every diplomatic tool at our disposal,” said US Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall.
Clinton’s focus on the role of food in person-to-person diplomacy began when she was first lady and Marshall served as White House social secretary.