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Food is an indelible instrument of foreign policy. A good meal can literally bring people to the table – and keep them there – to learn more about one another. But introducing national gastronomy abroad is a delicate process. Chefs must listen to and learn from the history and stories that inform the table customs of others. They must share their own culinary journeys in a way that fosters connection.
Across an increasingly complex global landscape, what does it take for chefs to be instruments of diplomacy? How can food help people cross political fault lines and come together? The Culinary Diplomacy Project works to answer these questions by sending celebrity chefs around the world. To learn (and taste!) how, join celebrity chefs Amanda Freitag and Michael Solomonov in conversation with Lauren Bernstein, Founder and CEO of the Culinary Diplomacy Project. They will discuss how their world travels have inspired their cooking and how their culinary careers are bridging cultural divides.
Born and raised in New Jersey, chef, author, and television star Amanda Freitag has become a culinary maven. Following her graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, Amanda worked in a diverse mix of restaurants in New York City, including Jean-George Vongerichten's Vong, Verbena, Il Buco, Cesca, and The Harrison, running the culinary gamut of Mediterranean, Italian, and Classic American. She sharpened her skills through world travel, including working under Chef Alain Passard in Paris, and continued expanding her culinary expertise into a variety of international cuisines.
Outside of the restaurant business, Amanda has become a household name for her work both on and off the television screen. She is well known for being a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped” and has appeared on “Iron Chef America”, “Next Iron Chef”, “Unique Eats”, “Beat Bobby Flay," Guy Fieri’s “Tournament of Champions," and many more.
Her mission to make cooking more approachable inspired the creation of her cookbook "The Chef Next Door,” her set of five unique spice blends, a collection of ready-to-pour bottled cocktails, and other ongoing culinary projects. Amanda has also earned notoriety on social media for her tutorial series "EasyAF," where she shows audiences that delicious food can be fun and simple to make in the comfort of your own home.
Mike Solomonov is a beloved champion of Israel's extraordinarily diverse culinary landscape, and the chef widely recognized for bringing Israeli cuisine to diners across the U.S., and around the world. He is Chef of the trailblazing restaurant Zahav, and co-owner of Philadelphia's CookNSolo Restaurants with hospitality entrepreneur, Steve Cook. Solomonov is the co-author of three cookbooks, and the recipient of five James Beard awards including "Outstanding Restaurant" for Zahav, making it the first Israeli-American restaurant to be awarded this great honor. The CookNSolo portfolio also features Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Goldie, K'Far, Laser Wolf, and Lilah. CookNSolo expanded to Brooklyn in 2022 with much acclaim, bringing grill house sensation Laser Wolf, Israeli bakery & café K’Far, and Jaffa Cocktail & Raw Bar to The Hoxton hotel in Williamsburg. Solomonov is a member of the American Culinary Corps and was appointed by President Biden to the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. Outside of the restaurants, you can often find Mike with Steve at Pho 75 in South Philly, working out the kinks in their Israeli village.
Lauren Bernstein is the founder and CEO of The Culinary Diplomacy Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote cross-cultural awareness through global culinary engagement. She partners with an ever-growing global network of world-renowned celebrity chefs to engage communities, governments, NGOs, and the media, in an effort to build and strengthen international relationships. Bernstein is a leading expert in culinary diplomacy with a breadth of experience in global culinary exchange, program development, strategic partnerships, and community engagement. Prior to launching The Culinary Diplomacy Project, Bernstein served as the director of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership at the US Department of State. In addition to over ten years of experience in culinary diplomacy, Bernstein worked as a public defender for over a decade and remains a member of the Bars of the District of Columbia and Commonwealth of Virginia. She serves on the Meridian International Cultural Diplomacy Leadership Council and the Advisory Council of the (LIFE) Project for the Center for International Private Enterprise.