food diplomacy through the story of a meal

Archive for Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Lemon, Lavender, Lardons and Leadership

Oh yes, the daily grind of life has put the blog on the back burner, but not for long.  I will be more active as I plan to use the blog as a vehicle to share with you a new endeavor.  Starting next week, I will be a 2012 Fellow in the “Leadership L.A.” program at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  This is an opportunity to refine one’s leadership skills under the rubric of civic engagement.  There will be 49 other fellows from governmental, corporate, NGOs which represent areas such as banking, culture, LGBT youth, utilities, health care, politics, education, entertainment, etc.  I am so looking forward to learning about these individuals and see where creative collaborations may develop.

My area of emphasis is food diplomacy.  For me, this defined how governments, organization, corporations use food as a narrative to teach, share, define, and promote foreign and domestic policies to the others.  We all have a story, a memory, a taste that we can say transcended our values and beliefs.  Whether you have come from El Salvador, Iran, Guam, or France–you have a story that can be told through food and memory.  It carries with it one’s history (generational recipes) as well as an individual imprint (fusion and modernizing).  It takes us back to formative moments (first holiday, first date, first child) as well as we seek to incorporate other cultures (multiculturalism, bi-racial, bi-coastal).  I believe that when we break bread with another, we have allowed ourselves to be open to another.  This is especially the case when we cook for others.

So how does food diplomacy and leadership development come together?  One has to see their role as a leader as a catalyst and not an individual powerbroker.  In any recipe or food narrative, you can achieve success in the mechanics, individual spices, ingredients, preparations, but you will never have a complete and enjoyable experience if it does not come together and is shared with others.  Leaders do not work in isolation.  The innovative and creative ones assemble the best teams that cover all skills, and bringing diverse and unique voices to the table.

Effective public diplomacy does the same.  There are no solitary actors who can effect change, they need to be part of a strong team where governments, international actors, corporations and practitioners can contribute their intellectual and compassionate capital to the issue.   I plan to look at civic engagement from my lens–food diplomacy.  I will be introduced to many facets of the public life:  art, culture, education, transportation, law and society, health care, economic development, neighborhood development, water and the environment with 49 other committed colleagues who also love our city.

Check in monthly as I walk the streets of Los Angeles and discover how sweet, bitter, sour and salty she is.








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