Last month I headed down to Washington D.C. for an incredible event celebrating the launch of the American Chef Corps, a part of the State Department’s new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative. In addition to providing food and styling for the event, I was honored and excited to become a member of the Chef Corps! I have always believed food is a powerful medium to bring people together, so catering the kick-off party for this amazing diplomatic endeavor was a wonderful honor.
The new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership is part of Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton’s “smart power” philosophy as executed by the uber-savvy U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall.
According to Clinton, “Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool, but I think it’s the oldest diplomatic tool. Sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can.”
From what all the chefs have been told, that means we’ll help prepare meals for visiting dignitaries, travel to U.S. embassies abroad for educational programs with foreign audiences or host culinary experts from around the world in our kitchens. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet with chefs from around the world who want to know more about U.S. advances in moving food from farm to table and building stronger culinary businesses.
Before the DCP Initiative reception started at the State Department, the Chef Corps was invited to a private tour of the White House. I particularly loved seeing the White House kitchens, where huge state dinners crank out of a small, extremely efficient space run by White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford.
For the DCP Initiative reception, I was asked to cater all the passed savory hors d’oeuvres and a whole host of my mini desserts. Additionally, I was asked to style all the other food and beverage displays for the event with our custom-made elements, vessels and props. We styled a seafood station highlighting seafood salads by Chef Amanda Freitag, a carving station for Maryland Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s bison short ribs, an elegant “grains” station showcasing Chef Art Smith’s love of Farro, a farmer’s market stand for Chef Mary Sue Milliken’s bacon and bean salad, a charcuterie station with cured meats from Creminelli, a lattice-tiered Pie Station for the Pie Sisters and an elaborate cheese station with cheeses from around the country.
A HUGE shout out to our friend David Adler, CEO and Founder of BizBash Media, who helped make this initiative come to life. Something that should also be noted is that the James Beard Foundation is a partner with the State Department in the Chefs Corps program.
Below is a list of all the Chefs in the Corps, check it out, as you’ll probably recognize some of your favorites from the Food Network and Top Chef, amongst others.
The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership’s American Chef Corps
Mary Sue Milliken