The important role food can play in diplomacy

by Debbie Casini Klein, Director,  I Want to be an Ambassador! 

Diplomacy is the art of maintaining peaceful relationships between nations, groups or individuals. And an important aspect of diplomacy, which our Ambassador campers immersed themselves in, is gastro-diplomacy — using food as a tool to foster cultural understanding among countries and people. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “food is the oldest form of diplomacy.” The concept of culinary diplomacy is ancient, but the terminology of gastro-diplomacy is relatively new.

Hillary Clinton kicked off the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership in 2012 by recruiting 80 food professionals from Thailand to cook for foreign diplomats and travel abroad promoting their culture and cuisine. This broadened the role of diplomacy globally, through food. By sharing their culinary traditions and delicacies, countries engage in soft power diplomacy, creating positive impressions and building connections with people and nations.

Knowing the importance that food can play in diplomatic relations, our Ambassador students had the opportunity to sample a variety of delicious cuisines and learn about some of their cultures as well including Greek, Bulgarian, Indian, Thai, African, Cuban and much more. Learning the history of some of these cuisines and sampling some foods they have never tried before, proved be an enjoyable and eye-opening experience. Exploring diverse cuisines has broadened their perspectives, making them more aware of the world’s richness and diversity, and learning that food can be a conduit to diplomacy.


Debbi Casini Klein was the executive producer for the award-winning TV talk-show “Pittsburgh’s Talking.” She has written and produced television shows on the local and national level and has won many Emmy awards for her work. Deb’s commitment to community service continues in her newly elected role as a member of the Churchill Borough Council. She and her husband were married in the Fiji islands followed by a 3-month trip around the world, inspiring her passion for world culture and diplomacy. The experience prompted her to add freelance travel agent to her repertoire for many years. As a lover of food and a variety of cuisines, Deb helped create and lead several food tours in and around Pittsburgh. Deb loves working with students of all ages and is a mom to two children.