The U.S. State Department hopes to gain from the notion that breaking bread together brings people closer.
"Great things happen over a great meal," Frederick chef and restaurant owner Bryan Voltaggio said Tuesday while explaining what he understands to be the concept behind the State Department's "Diplomatic Culinary Partnership."
Voltaggio was recently inducted into the American Chef Corps, one of more than 80 chefs from all over the country who will be used as resources for the State Department for food-related outreach.
Each chef can participate in a multitude of ways, including overseeing the preparation of meals shared by American officials and foreign leaders, visiting U.S. embassies to educate audiences about American cuisine, and educating foreigners when they visit the U.S. through the department's professional exchange program.
A representative of the partnership was not available for comment Tuesday.
"I think the State Department wants to make sure they have the best of what we have to offer," Voltaggio said. "There's just a group of really great chefs that are involved."
Many of them, he said, have "multiple restaurants or influences in the culinary landscape of America."
Voltaggio's fellow inductees include Duff Goldman, of Charm City Cakes, Food Network personality Amanda Freitag and Washington restaurant owner and Spanish tapas chef Jose Andres.
"It's great to be among them," Voltaggio said.
Voltaggio owns three Frederick restaurants -- Volt, Lunch Box and Family Meal -- and was a runner-up on 2009's "Top Chef: Las Vegas." A steppingstone for his involvement in the State Department initiative came in April when his Volt team catered an event for Japan's prime minister and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said.
Justin Zawoysky, Volt's sous-chef, said the menu for that meal included crab and avocado rolls, Wagyu beef and canapes. He appreciates the new program not only because it benefits the State Department, but also because "it's uniting chefs all around the world," he said. "It's about bringing everyone together."
Zawoysky, who fondly remembers childhood meals around the table with his family, agrees with the concept behind the program -- the idea that food can unite.
So does Voltaggio, although he is excited about other elements of the partnership, too.
It will "help showcase the culinary heritage of the United States," he said.
Plus, "I think it's really cool as a chef to get to give back to your country. ... If there's an important decision made over my food, then I feel like I've definitely contributed to the greater good."