People always come together around food. As people move, they bring their foods with them. As cultures come into contact in the kitchen and dining room, a new sort of cultural diplomacy emerges that promotes the sharing of values, traditions, and worldviews through food. This new soft power can effectively bridge conflicts, at times more effectively than normal diplomacy. History has proven that national cuisines have spread organically around the world. Spreading culinary traditions, through state and non-state actors, as a way of sharing values, culture and tradition has been called cultural diplomacy, or gastrodiplomacy. Recently, this form of diplomacy has become popular, and has proven to be an effective way of bringing together people in conflict.
This discussion explored how governments, organizations and individuals are working to bring cultures together through food. As a new and understudied field, how can this tool of diplomacy be used more broadly in conflict resolution? How can gastrodiplomacy provide a greater impact on citizen-to-citizen interaction? As a growing field, who are emerging as leaders, and how can individuals play a role in diplomacy?
Special thanks to our sponsors at the Austrian Embassy and Kapnos by Mike Isabella for providing selected items for reception guests.
Prior to the panel discussion a group of students from Danila Kumer Elementary School from Ljubljana, Slovenia showcased their cooking skills in the NYU lobby.
The students were finalists of “The Cooking Kids” culinary competition for school-aged children which takes place every year in renowned restaurants in Slovenia. The program was developed by Ms. Anka Peljhan and introduces cooking skills to youngsters by emphasizing the use of healthy, local, and natural ingredients.
“The Cooking Kids” program fosters self-confidence in the kitchen, boosts the team work and nurtures mutual understanding. It also endeavors that grandmothers' recipes for traditional foods will further be preserved, moreover become part of family meals again. Next to cooking, children participating in the program also learn about home gardening and healthy life style. The Cooking Kids Program is supported by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sara Kohl, 11
Nina Samardžija, 11
Dominik Ivan Moro, 10
Benjamin Kohl, 10
Brina Samardžija, 9
Lauren Bernstein is Director of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership in the Office of the Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State. The program is in partnership with the James Beard Foundation and strives to foster cross-cultural relationships through food. Working with talented chefs from across the country, Lauren programs members of the American Chef Corps in various kinds of public diplomacy efforts both at home and abroad. Lauren also develops all program events, from panel discussions to large-scale events. In her role as Protocol Officer, Lauren manages high level events for the Secretary of State, ranging from small dinners and breakfasts to receptions for several hundred guests. Before coming to the U.S. Department of State, Lauren previously worked as an attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Over the last ten years, she has worked closely with D.C. youth and community based programs throughout the city. Lauren is from the Metropolitan area and lives in the District of Columbia.
From the seasonally inspired dishes he creates every day, to the numerous charities he has supported over the years, to his undeniable influence on the city’s palate, Chef Todd Gray’s impact on Washington, D.C.’s culinary scene is immeasurable. Many of the top toques in the nation’s capital have been shaped under his calm and patient tutelage.
His background in classical French and Italian techniques, proclivity for invention, and unflappable kitchen leadership has made Chef Gray a sought-after culinary mentor and an influential leader in the world of D.C. gastronomy. A longtime advocate for sustainable agriculture, he has worked tirelessly with local farmers to develop fresh, organic produce and other ingredients for his kitchen, including custom-grown beef.
Chef Gray has earned numerous awards for his kitchen artistry and inspired menu combinations. He has received five nominations for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic Award, and in 2011, after eight nominations, he was named the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s 2011 RAMMY Chef of the Year.
Raised in Virginia, Chef Gray studied at the University of Richmond and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. After the CIA, he worked at a number of fine dining restaurants, where he was able hone his craft, refine his technique, and develop his kitchen philosophy prior to launching Equinox.
Zoe Kosmidou, Ph.D. was born and raised in Athens, Greece. She has studied architecture at the Paris (France) School of Fine Arts, International Relations at George Washington University, PR Management at American University and International Cultural Relations at Panteion University.
Dr. Kosmidou has developed a keen interest through academic research and professional practice in the promotion of the arts and culture as a means of peace building and conflict resolution. She has extensive experience in strategic partnerships with national, diplomatic and international organizations such as, foreign missions, the Smithsonian, the National Geographic, the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center, the European Union Delegation, the European Council, the United Nations, UNESCO, the IMF and the World Bank. Strategic and public relations include collaboration with major think tanks, academic institutions, the U.S. Congress and Administration.
Dr. Kosmidou has designed and managed innovative projects for the promotion of Greek and European cultures. One of the most successful titled: “Health, Nutrition and Fitness” that includes a series of programs for the promotion of nutrition, healthy living and longevity was presented at the invitation of US Congress on Capitol Hill in 2013. She has organized, curated and managed art exhibitions in the USA and Europe and collaborated in joined European programs such as, the European Film Festival, EU Open House, European Kids Festival, European Night, Francophonie Festival, European Cultural Month.
Contributed to national programs that led to the empowerment of local communities through the arts, such as the World Cultural Economy Forum, an initiative for the rehabilitation of New Orleans post-hurricane Katrina and Creative Place Making in the City of Baltimore.
Participated and was keynote speaker in conferences related to conflict resolution, preservation of cultural heritage, development of cultural dialogue, restitution of illicitly exported cultural artifacts, cultural property and law.
Dr. Kosmidou contributed to the Greek–Turkish so called “earthquake diplomacy” that was initiated after successive earthquakes hit both countries in the summer of 1999. She designed and implemented programs of cultural exchanges between 80 sister-cities from both sides of the Aegean Sea that were aiming at the improvement of their bilateral relations.
Academically she has pioneered at the development of Cultural Diplomacy, a new field in International Relations that focuses on communication through the arts for conflict resolution. She was a Visiting Research Scholar at American University’s School of International Service and taught Cross-Cultural Communication as an Adjunct Professor.
Co-founded EUNIC DC, the DC cluster of the European National Institutes of Culture in Washington DC, in 2011. She directs the Hellenic Foundation for Culture in the USA and serves as President at the Pillars of Greek Culture, a non-profit organization focused on promoting Greek cultural, educational and art programs.
Author of the book: “The Power of Visual Logos” endorsed by the National Museum of Women in the Arts and contributing editor to arts, communication and international relations publications.
Pati Jinich was born and raised in Mexico and comes from a family of accomplished cooks and food maniacs. Absolute maniacs. Most of what she reads, thinks, researches, tests and teaches (including to her three boys) is about food.
Her interest in food built up as she tried to deny it. As a political analyst, she left things related to food for my spare time. As her and her husband started to grow a family, she began to think he was a macho man in disguise, who wanted a wife in the kitchen, since he insisted time and again that she quit her academic path to jump into cooking.
Pati did have wonderful incursions into the culinary field in the past. Right after she got married and moved to Texas, she taught Mexican cooking to friends and neighbors. Then, she became a production assistant for the PBS food series New Tastes from Texas hosted by Chef Stephan Pyles, along with guests Diana Kennedy and Patricia Quintana, pioneers who helped introduce Mexican ingredients into American cooking.
Once Pati and her family moved to DC, she retook her formal path as a political analyst and received a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University. She worked so hard, she got a merit scholarship and felt very proud. Soon after, she worked at the Inter American Dialogue, a policy research center, which she had considered her dream job, and kept on working even harder!
Yet, she got into an early existential crisis of sorts… Obsessively thinking about food rather than politics, after a year, she registered for a nightly program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. After a lot of hesitation, she decided to take a plunge, and left her job to give food a real try. She has never looked back. In 2007, prompted by the Director of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., she launched Mexican Table.
Mexican Table is a culinary program which consists of a series of live cooking demonstrations, tasting dinners and workshops. Through this program she tries to swing a window wide open into the fascinating world of Mexican cuisine. She helps familiarize people with its ingredients and cooking techniques, with a sprinkling of culture, history and traditions.
Capricia Penavic Marshall serves as Ambassador-in-Residence at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. She is President of Global Engagement Strategies, which advises international public and private clients on issues relating to the nexus of business and cultural diplomacy. She travels across the country speaking to organizations and corporations about her experiences, lessons she has learned throughout her career in public service, and how best to integrate cultural diplomacy into business.
From 2009 to 2013, she was Chief of Protocol of the United States, bearing the rank of Ambassador and setting the stage for diplomacy at the highest levels. In this capacity, she worked to leverage U.S. relationships with foreign governments developing strategies to transform global engagement. Ms. Marshall oversaw six State and Official Visits, countless Working Visits, the G20, Nuclear Security, APEC, G8, NATO and Sunnylands Summits, and the protocol arrangements during travel with the President and Secretaries of State to forty-two countries. Moving beyond traditional methods of engagement, Ms. Marshall fostered international goodwill through a new division in the protocol office, Diplomatic Partnerships. With creative programming under this division she created sustained, mutually beneficial partnerships between the foreign Diplomatic Corps and business, government and community leaders across America. From 1997 to 2001, Ms. Marshall served as Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary. From 1993 to 1997, she was Special Assistant to the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In addition to her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Ms. Marshall holds a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Ms. Marshall is a first-generation American of Croatian and Mexican descent. In March 2014, ELLE magazine named Marshall to its annual “Washington Power List,” as one of DC’s most influential women.
Johanna Mendelson Forman is a senior advisor with the Managing Across Boundaries Initiative at the Stimson Center, where she works on security and development issues, including regional multilateral engagement, civil-military relations and stabilization and reconstruction. She is also a scholar-in-residence at the School of International Service at the American University. An expert on the Caribbean, and Brazil, she also has worked extensively on foreign assistance and humanitarian programs in Haiti. A former co-director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mendelson Forman has written extensively on security-sector reform in conflict states, economic development in postwar societies, gender and conflict, and the role of the United Nations in peace operations.
Mendelson Forman also brings experience in the world of philanthropy, having served as the director of peace, security and human rights at the UN Foundation. She has held senior positions in the U.S. government, helping create the Office of Transition Initiatives, and serving as a senior adviser for Humanitarian Response at the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as at the World Bank's Post Conflict Unit. She served as a senior advisor to the UN Mission in Haiti.
Mendelson Forman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the advisory boards of the Latin American Security Network, and RESDAL and she co-chairs the Latin American and Caribbean Council on Renewable Energy. She holds a J.D. from Washington College of Law at American University, a Ph.D. in Latin American history from Washington University, St. Louis, and a Master's of International Affairs, with a certificate of Latin America studies from Columbia University in New York.