Culinary diplomacy

Cristeta Comerford Peru Mark Flanagan (chef)
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid offering to French President Emmanuel Macron rose honey in 2017.

Culinary diplomacy, also known as gastrodiplomacy, is a type of cultural diplomacy, which itself is a subset of public diplomacy. Its basic premise is that "the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach".[1] Official government-sponsored culinary diplomacy programs have been established in Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Peru, and the United States.[2]

Background and definitions

The terms "culinary diplomacy" and "gastrodiplomacy" have been in use since the early 2000s, and have been popularized by the work of public diplomacy scholars Paul Rockower and Sam Chapple-Sokol. An early mention of the concept was in a 2002 Economist article about the Thai Kitchen of the World program.[3][4] In a 2011 article published in the Taiwanese journal Issues & Studies, Rockower wrote that "Gastrodiplomacy is predicated on the notion that the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach."[1] Chapple-Sokol wrote in a 2013 article in the journal The Hague Journal of Diplomacy that culinary diplomacy is "the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation."[2]

Culinary diplomacy versus gastrodiplomacy

The two terms "culinary diplomacy" and "gastrodiplomacy" are used interchangeably by many, though some scholars have differentiated the terms. Rockower, for example, claims that gastrodiplomacy refers to a tool of public diplomacy, while culinary diplomacy serves as "a means to further diplomatic protocol through cuisine".[5] Chapple-Sokol writes that both of these fall under the broad categorization of "culinary diplomacy", and differentiates between public and private culinary diplomacy.[2] The former refers to culinary diplomacy being used as a tool of public diplomacy, and more specifically cultural diplomacy, while the latter "occurs behind closed doors", akin to Rockower's definition.



The "Global Thai" program, launched in 2002, was a government-led culinary diplomacy initiative. It aimed to boost the number of Thai restaurants worldwide to 8,000 by 2003 from about 5,500 previously.[4] By 2011, that number had increased to more than 10,000 Thai restaurants worldwide.[6]

The program was explained in Thailand: Kitchen of the World, an eBook published to promote the program. The point of the e-book: "In the view of the Export Promotion Department, Thai restaurants have a good business potential that can be developed to maintain a high level of international recognition. To achieve that goal, the department is carrying out a public relations campaign to build up a good image of the country through Thai restaurants worldwide."[3]:Chapter 7

The Department of Export Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Commerce offers potential restaurateurs plans for three different "master restaurant" types—from fast food to elegant—which investors can choose as a prefabricated restaurant plan.[7][8] Concomitantly, the Export-Import Bank of Thailand offered loans to Thai nationals aiming to open restaurants abroad, and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand set up an infrastructure for loans of up to US$3 million for overseas food industry initiatives, including Thai restaurants.[8]

South Korea

South Korea launched its own culinary diplomacy program in 2009, a $77m investment entitled "Korean Cuisine to the World or "Global Hansik".[9] The goals of the program, run by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, are to promote the unique nature and health qualities of Korean cuisine (hansik), as well as to increase the number of Korean restaurants worldwide to 40,000 by 2017.[10] Projects undertaken by the Korean government include the opening of a kimchi institute, working to establish Korean cuisine as a course in internationally recognized cooking schools, and the launch of a touring Korean food truck.[9]


Since 2010 Malaysia has undertaken a similar project by running the "Malaysia Kitchen" Programme.[11] The programme, carried out by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, has focused most of its efforts to promote Malaysian cuisine in Australia, United States and United Kingdom.[5] Malaysia is an especially appropriate country to conduct culinary diplomacy due to its history as a culinary crossroads and its current mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian populations. The approach, which has employed celebrity chefs such as Rick Stein and Norman Musa in the UK, has had significant impact in increasing awareness of Malaysian cuisine and Malaysian restaurants[12] through product promotions and cooking demonstrations at supermarkets, food festivals and an annual night market at Trafalgar Square, London.[13]


An official Peruvian culinary diplomacy program started in 2011, with Peru's application for its cuisine to be included in UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage, the first year food heritage was recognized.[14] Peruvian cuisine was denied the status of food heritage in its initial application.[15] The Cocina Peruana Para El Mundo campaign has also been promoted by Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, the owner of multiple restaurants worldwide as well as a co-creator of the documentary Perú Sabe, along with Spanish chef Ferran Adrià.[16]

The United States

In September 2012, the United States officially launched its Culinary Diplomacy Partnership Initiative.[17] More than 80 chefs, including White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, former White House Executive Pastry Chef William Yosses, and Spanish-born chef José Andrés, were named to be members of the "American Chef Corps." The initiative is organized by the United States State Department Office of Protocol. One goal of the program is to send members of the Chef Corps to American embassies abroad on public diplomacy missions to teach about American cuisine.

Selected List of American Chef Corps

The Club des Chefs des Chefs

At the summit of culinary diplomacy is Le Club des Chefs des Chefs,[18] or the Leaders' Chefs' Club. Created in 1977 by Gilles Bragard, former CEO of Bragard Uniforms, the club annually brings together more than 25 chefs of heads of state to meet and discuss their work. Current club members include Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford from The White House, Chef Bernard Vaussion, formerly of the Élysée Palace, Chef Mark Flanagan, Chef to Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom, and Chef Machindra Kasture, Chef to the Indian President.

The 2013 meeting of the club was hosted by White House Chef Cristeta Comerford and took place in New York City and Washington, DC.[19] The chefs met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as United States President Barack Obama.

The 2014 meeting of the club was hosted by Buckingham Palace chef Mark Flanagan, where the group met Queen Elizabeth II.[20]

The 2015 meeting of the club took place in Switzerland and Italy, where the club visited Expo 2015 in Milan.[21]


  1. ^ a b Rockower, Paul S. "Projecting Taiwan: Taiwan's Public Diplomacy Outreach." Issues & Studies 47, no. 1 (March 2011): 107-152.
  2. ^ a b c Chapple-Sokol, Samuel. "Culinary Diplomacy: Breaking Bread to Win Hearts and Minds." The Hague Journal of Diplomacy Volume 8, Issue 2 (2013): 161-183.
  3. ^ a b Thailand: Kitchen of the World. Bangkok: The Government Public Relations Department (Thailand) (PRD). n.d. Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Thailand's gastro-diplomacy". The Economist. 2002-02-21. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b Rockower, Paul S. "Recipes for Gastrodiplomacy." Place Branding and Public Diplomacy Volume 8 (2012): 235-346.
  6. ^ "Developing Chefs for Thai Cuisine Who Will Promote Thai Food Standards Overseas". The Government Public Relations Department (PRD) (Thailand). 2011-03-21. Archived from the original (Press release) on 2013-09-26. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Thai Select". Thai Select. 2013-02-15. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  8. ^ a b Karp, Myles (2018-03-29). "The Surprising Reason that There Are So Many Thai Restaurants in America". Vice. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  9. ^ a b Pham, Mary Jo A. "Food as Communication: A Case Study of South Korea's Gastrodiplomacy." Journal of International Service Volume 22, Number 1 (Spring 2013): 1-22.
  10. ^ "Global Hansik off to strong start" The Korea Times
  11. ^ "'Malaysia Kitchen for the World 2010' Campaign Launched to Promote Malaysian Restaurants and Cuisine in the New York Metro Area" PRNewswire
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Thousands drawn to Trafalgar Square for a taste of Malaysia". 2013-10-05.
  14. ^ Wilson, Rachel. "Cocina Peruana Para El Mundo: Gastrodiplomacy, the Culinary Nation Brand, and the Context of National Cuisine in Peru." Archived 2014-04-23 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Matta, Raúl (2016-08-01). "Food incursions into global heritage: Peruvian cuisine's slippery road to UNESCO". Social Anthropology (in French). 24 (3): 338–352. doi:10.1111/1469-8676.12300. ISSN 1469-8676.
  16. ^ Inicio > The Documentary. "The Documentary". Peru Sabe. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  17. ^ U.S. Department of State to Launch Diplomatic Culinary Partnership
  18. ^ "Le Club des Chefs des Chefs - Accueil". 2012-06-25. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  19. ^ "Le Club des Chefs des Chefs - Le rendez-vous annuel". Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  20. ^ "Le Club des Chefs des Chefs - Past Events". Retrieved 2015-09-02.
  21. ^ "Le Club des Chefs des Chefs - News". Retrieved 2015-09-02.