Mourad Lahlou Named State Chef in Ceremony Led By Hillary Clinton

By
S.F. chef Mourad Lahlou donning his new State Department chef's coat. Photo: Michael Bauer

Michael Bauer just returned from a trip to D.C. where he was part of a contingent from the James Beard Foundation (he's on the committee that nominates restaurant and chef candidates), along with members of the Association of Food Journalists and the State Department, who were launching something called the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership (which Grub Street mentioned last week). The idea, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained at the ceremony, is to get together a small army of respected American chefs to serve as "culinary diplomats," cooking at state dinners and traveling to other countries to share America's cuisine during diplomatic events. "Factoring in others tastes, ceremonies, and values is an overlooked and powerful part of diplomacy," Clinton said, and went on to name the 2012 class of State Chefs, which includes Jose Andres, April Bloomfield, Bryan Voltaggio, Rick Bayless, and Mourad Lahlou of Aziza where Bauer recently spent his birthday with Nancy Pelosi.

The Washington Post reports that in addition to the State Chefs, most of whom have previously cooked at state dinners or for dignitaries abroad already, there is also now a American Chef Corps, "a network of culinary leaders who could be deployed to promote U.S. cooking and agricultural products abroad." It turns out that the Beard Foundation has for years advised the State Department on which chefs to tap for various important occasions, like a lunch for the vice-president of China last February for which they suggested Ming Tsai.

Mr. Bauer uses his report on the event to talk about how he's seen local cuisines quickly modernize around the country in places outside of major cities, and then he makes the leap to further advocate for the ongoing importance of newspaper critics as the local papers slash their budgets. Way to move that agenda, sir.

Sidenote: Because he mentioned Hillary Clinton, and this is SFGate, the first commenter out of the gate thinks this is all just a bunch of liberal malarkey and says, "As for the chefs, who better to make friends with than the U.S. State Department when you employ a kitchen full of illegal immigrants?" Nice.

The State Department has the right idea: Use chefs to further diplomacy [Between Meals/Scoop]
Earlier: Chefs are the new diplomats [WP]
Exports: Top Chef and Actual Chefs Being Shipped Overseas [Grub Street Boston]