We went to eat Andrew Zimmerman's Iron Chef-winning menu at Sepia the other night— it's fun and it runs through tomorrow, check it out— and one thing we were told during dinner was that he was part of a State Department outreach thing with chefs, aimed at using the common ground of food to build bridges to other countries, the way ballerinas and classical musicians used to during the Cold War. The next day the Washington Post published a story that tells us all about it: to be officially announced Friday, it's called the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and it aims to “elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts."
There are about 20 or so prominent chefs involved, selected with the assistance of the James Beard Foundation— which suggests why Zimmerman, who got his first James Beard nomination this year, is on a list which also includes a number of Top Chef veterans including fellow Chicagoan Rick Bayless (who won Top Chef Masters) and contenders Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio, along with other prominent chefs such as Jose Andres and April Bloomfield. The goal of the program is to do everything from increase awareness of American artisanal products to simply make friends by digging in and cooking; the Post says it's an outgrowth of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal interest in food. The State Chefs are unpaid, though major U.S. food companies such as Mars underwrite many of the program's costs. [WaPo]