Friday, January 11, 2013

Culinary Diplomacy Afghan Style

Recently the State Department launched a new culinary diplomacy initiative. Embassy Kabul launched its own version of culinary diplomacy this week when embassy employees participated in the Afghan version of Iron Chef. Our brave amateur chefs went head to head with a professional Afghan chef using the secret ingredient - turnip!

The American chefs working hard while the camera crew does its best to distract them.
 Note the product placement items in the foreground.

Both teams had to create a soup, a main dish, and a dessert within 60 minutes using the secret ingredient. The American team did very well and demonstrated some of the creativity of American cooking. When it came time to taste the dishes, I think the Afghan judges were a little puzzled by some unfamiliar food presented to them. But the American team's pancake dessert with a sweet caramel topping rocked!

Getting ready to present the dishes to the judges.

One of the judges was an FSO from the embassy. He gave his comments in Pashto, which impressed a lot of Afghans sitting around me in the audience (could this be the inspiration for a new FSI language test format?). In the end, the Afghan team had the advantage and won the title of "Golden Chef." Even though the American team lost, I think it was a public diplomacy victory. And I went home with a Golden Chef mug, so it was a good day all around.