Last week the U.S. Department of State announced the first-ever American Chef Corps as part of the new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative with the James Beard Foundation. We caught up with one of the five Bay Area members, Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef of Waterbar and Farallon and chair of the JBF, to find out more about the program and her involvement with it.
To start, she made it clear that the list of 89 chefs announced last week was not final by any means. "It's not like they picked a certain number of chefs and that's it. This is just the beginning of the whole initiative," she said. Earlier this week we bemoaned the lack of West Coast chefs on the list, but Luchetti said that a number of chefs were in discussions but couldn't make the kickoff due to time constraints: "They're there, they're just not on the list yet."
She said the program is still very much in the "ideas and brainstorming" phase in terms of chef involvement, but a few areas are being discussed. First, when dignitaries come to Washington D.C., the James Beard Foundation will work with the State Department to find chefs to cook for them in collaboration with the White House chefs. Second, when chefs from other countries come to the U.S. to learn about our food and agriculture, a network of chefs in cities across the country can teach and host them (and the visiting chefs can return the hospitality when American chefs are abroad). And Luchetti also hopes to work with other female chefs in the Corps to teach young girls in other countries about cooking and baking.
"It's going to be fun," she said. "It remains to see where it's going to go, but I know it's going to go somewhere exciting."
As far as representing the Bay Area for visitors, Luchetti said she hopes to convey the collaborative nature of the San Francisco chefs. "We have such a great community of chefs here who love to share their knowledge with everyone else," she said. She's also excited to show off California's great produce and agriculture, along with the "quality of food and bakeries we have here ... whether it's a cafe or fancy restaurant, we have such a broad spectrum of food opportunities and food options. It's really fun."
Luchetti is also excited about the program's potential impact on diplomatic relations, and echoed earlier sentiments expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall. "This is a great opportunity for chefs in general to become part of the diplomatic package," she said. "Food is so important. Relationships are better around food. When you have these really tense discussions between governments, if you have good food in front of you, people are going to relax a little more."