I’m thrilled to join you in celebrating – and congratulating – the outstanding nominees and winners of the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards.
For decades, this ceremony has highlighted talented chefs, bakers, bartenders, advocates, and experts from every corner – and every cuisine – of the United States.
These awards not only spotlight the remarkable diversity and ingenuity of America’s culinary landscape – they also tell our nation’s story.
Our culinary traditions reflect where we come from and what we cherish. And our menus showcase America’s melting pot, with all its extraordinary flavors.
That’s what makes American food – and the people behind it – a vital part of how we connect with the world. When we share our cuisines with people from other countries, they learn something about us that transcends the divisions of geography and language. And when Americans try foods from other places, we get a taste of their cultures… and a window into their history.
As a diplomat, I’ve found that sharing a meal with my colleagues often leads to new conversations and connections that could only happen around a dining table – and not a conference table.
That’s why the State Department has made culinary diplomacy part of our foreign policy, to build bridges through food – what James Beard called the universal “common ground.”
We’re teaming up with his foundation to do just that. Earlier this year, the State Department and the James Beard Foundation came together to re-launch the American Culinary Corps. More than 80 chefs and bakers are acting as citizen diplomats: promoting American businesses and cuisines abroad.
Recently, the South Korean President came to Washington D.C., and a Culinary Corps chef and a James Beard award winner, Edward Lee, prepared the White House State Dinner. Edward is Korean American, and his menu celebrated the natural fusion of Korean and American flavors – and what he calls “the story of his life.” Maryland crabcakes with gochujang vinaigrette. A banana split with doenjang caramel.
In this year’s award winners… and in kitchens across America, there are professional chefs and home cooks alike who are using food to tell the stories of their lives. And by bringing their history and heritage to their plates, they’re helping write the next chapters of our shared American cookbook.
Our country and our world are much richer and more flavorful for it.