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Gastronomic Diplomacy

by on February 6, 2014

Gastrodiplomacy has become a popular tool of public diplomacy. It ties knives, forks and flags and uses restaurants to promote culture and food and shares the uniqueness of each country’s cuisine. (Rockower, ‘Edible Nation Branding for the Netherlands’, 2013). Former United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called the use of food as the oldest diplomatic tool (U.S. Department of State, ‘Video Remarks for the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative Launch’, 2012).


Gastrodiplomacy as a technique was first used by Thailand. As the Thai restaurants were becoming more and more popular across the world, Thailand’s government realised its opportunity. In 2002 the government launched the Global Thai programme. This programme sought to increase the numbers of Thai restaurants and make it easier for Thai restaurants to import Thai food and hire Thai chefs. Its aim was also to persuade more people to visit Thailand and deepen relationships with other countries through food (Rockower, 2012, 4).

The Global Thai programme was a success as the global number of Thai restaurants increased to over 13 000 by 2009. Thai food ranked fourth in the recognition of ethnic cuisines category. This form of Gastrodiplomacy effort has helped to create robust and recognizable nation brand for Thailand (Rockower, 2012, 5).

Other Asian countries have followed. South Korea has pushed its culinary skills through Kimchi diplomacy. Especially in the U.S. Kimchi refers to Korea’s flavoured dish of vegetables pickled with red chilli and garlic. After the launch of the Kimchi diplomacy, there has been a boom in Korean fast food trucks in California serving kimchi quesadillas (Booth, ‘Taiwan launches ‘gastro-diplomacy’ drive’, 2010). What about the USA?

The U.S joined the Gastrodiplomacy on September 7th 2012 when they launched Diplomatic Culinary Partnership. This new tool of their public diplomacy seeks to strengthen bilateral relationships right at the dinner table. Through the partnership chefs across the country will serve as resources to the U.S Department in preparing meals for foreign leaders. They will also participate in public diplomacy programs that engage foreign audiences abroad and in the United States as well (U.S. Department of State, ‘U.S. Department of State to Launch Diplomatic Culinary Partnership’, 2012). What other ways of Gastrodiplomacy are there?

In 2013, the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia has used food diplomacy to showcase American culture and diversity. The main part of the project was a month long visit by two American chefs. The programme also featured American food nights at top Ljubljana restaurants and food evenings hosted by U.S Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Mussomeli. However the highlight was an eight episode television series called ‘Seasoned by Americans’. Through the series American chefs had to recreate Slovene dishes but also had a chance to share the experience with the Slovenians they met. This programme highlighted national and local traditions and investigated environmental and social issues through food (Embassy of the United States – Ljubljana, ‘Food Diplomacy’, 2013)

Another ongoing Gastrodiplomacy project is Conflict Kitchen based in Pittsburgh. This restaurant only serves food from countries that the USA is currently in conflict. Every six months the menu, decoration and design change to represent a new country and culture. Conflict Kitchen also hosts events about the culture and politics related to the specific country.

gastro2So far the Conflict Kitchen has served the food from Iran, Afghanistan, etc. (Schmitt, 2012, 3). Currently the Conflict Kitchen introduces food, culture and politics of the North Korea. It uses food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures and people that they might know little about (Conflict Kitchen, 2014).

Throughout the history food has offered people the opportunity for communication and exchange. Country’s food and eating habits can be considered as intrinsic to national identity, touching all parts of history, economy, culture and society. Food can even be seen as a key factor in how we view ourselves and others. Are we vegetarians, vegans or meat lovers? Sometimes food perceived as national dish belonging to a certain country might spark a conflict. That’s how seriously food can be taken (Pham, ‘Food as Communication: A Case Study of South Korea’s Gastrodiplomacy’, 2013). Therefore to connect diplomacy with food is a great idea. No matter in what form this tools is used, it always serves as great connection among people, cultures and societies.


Booth, R. (2010), ‘Taiwan launches ‘gastro-diplomacy’ drive’, The Guardian, August 8th 2010. – accessed on 04/02/2014

Conflict Kitchen, 2014. – accessed on 04/02/2014

Embassy of the United States, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2013, ‘Food Diplomacy’, May 20th 2013. – accessed on 04/02/2014.

Pham, M. J. A. (2013), ‘Food as Communication: A Case Study of South Korea’s Gastrodiplomacy’, The Diplomatist, January 25th 2013. – accessed on 07/02/2014

Rockower, P., S. (2012), ‘Edible Nation Branding for the Netherlands’, HuffPost Taste, July 22nd 2013. – accessed on 04/02/2014

Rockower, P., S. (2012), Recipes for Gastrodiplomacy. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 8, 235-246. – accessed on 04/02/2014

Schmitt, C. (2012), ‘Food as an Emerging Diplomatic Tool in Contemporary Public Art’.—Carly-Schmitt.pdf – accessed on 04/02/2014

U.S. Department of State, ‘U.S. Department of State to Launch Diplomatic Culinary Partnership’, September 5th 2012. ‘ – accessed on 04/02/2014

U.S. Department of State, ‘Video Remarks for the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative Launch’, September 10th 2012. – accessed on 04/02/2014

Video, tweet and pictures: – accessed on 04/02/2014….0…1ac.1.32.img..0.11.691.34Wqr2J6dPI#hl=en&q=culinary+diplomacy&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_& – accessed on 04/02/2014….0…1ac.1.32.img..0.15.693.u8FmAJBAv3E#hl=en&q=conflict+kitchen&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_& – accessed on 04/02/2014 – accessed on 06/02/2014


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  1. Prof. Rockower gives you an “A” for this entry.

    • To be honest I thought that no one outside the Uni will read my posts. So thanks a lot for you time and comment. I appreciate it.

  2. I didn’t think anyone would pay attention to my missives on gastrodiplomacy, and suddenly a whole field popped up. Beauty of the internet 🙂

  3. And globalization. 😀

  4. A very interesting blog post, I did not know food and diplomacy had any connections.

  5. Great blog, i am very surprised the two intertwine. If you think about it logically is unsurprising really, why would one not discuss business over fine dining?

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