Tuesday, March 21, 2006
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach
Taking the old adage, the Foreign Ministry has been sending leading Israeli chefs on missions around the world in a bid to boost the country's international image.
"The Ministry, which is charged with exporting Israeli culture to the world, views food as another aspect of art that presents Israel beyond the conflict," said Nurit Tinari-Modai, the Foreign Ministry's cultural cooperation director.
Under the initiative, the Ministry announces an "Israeli food festival" and invites leading locals across the world to a gourmet meal at the Israeli ambassador's house or at a leading restaurant or hotel. Meanwhile, leading Israeli chefs brought from Israel are tasked with cooking for the guests.
Such events enjoy media attention, and on some occasion Israeli chefs are interviewed or make a guest appearance on a local cooking show. As a result, Israel receives some positive press amid the difficult images regularly aired about the region.
"Our ambassador in Portugal told me he has been fighting the media in order to get several positive lines about Israel into the newspapers, while we had whole pages dedicated to us," chef Shalom Kadosh says proudly.
Chef Nir Tzuk, who cooked meals in Kazakhstan over the course of a week, says "there's a strong desire to promote Israeli products, be it our olive oil or our wines."
"I feel we can touch many audiences through food," he says. "For most people Israel is a rather vague concept, and the food allows me to preset Israel as a fashionable place with gourmet food," he says. "The moment people taste Israeli wines and eat delicious, fun food in a cool atmosphere, they don't even think about asking about terror attacks."