Culinary Diplomacy Connects Chefs in Cleveland, Ohio and Rouen, France

Food acts as a great diplomacy tool, often helping people bond and connect within and between cultures. Rouen, France’s Mayor and local chefs visited Cleveland, Ohio in 2011 to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau wine and to do a cooking demonstration at Tri-C Hospitality Management. Their successful visit sparked an interest in a reciprocal culinary exchange, and in 2014, a delegation was formed and a trip was planned in collaboration with Cleveland Sister Cities. 

Four popular Cleveland-area chefs Brandt Evans, chef-co-owner of Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern in Twinsburg and Pura Vida restaurant; Adam Bostwick, chef-co-owner of Cork and Cleaver Social Kitchen; Courtney McLaren Bonning of Bonbon Pastry & Cafe; Jeff Jarrett, executive chef of AMP 150; Danny Schutte, a student from Tri-C Hospitality Management Program; Darwin Hailey, an apprentice from Edwins Restaurant; and Klaus Tenbergen, Associate Dean of the Hospitality School set out on a culinary adventure to their sister city Rouen, France. 

While in Rouen, the chefs had an opportunity to participate in several activities to immerse themselves in the culture of Rouen and regional French food. Some activities included: a sustainability clinic discussing the importance of healthy eating and food source origins, learning about the popularity of food trucks, visiting D-Day beaches in Normandy, and hosting a giant American barbecue. The barbecue was a great success with 600 attendees, 250 pounds of pork, and a delicious menu showcasing several unique barbecue sauce flavors from across the U.S. 

The highlight of the trip for Chef Evans was the opportunity to cook with talented French chefs, “the food spoke for us; even though there was a language barrier, we could understand each other through our love of cooking and great food.” The culinary student and apprentice got great exposure to top chefs in their field while constantly learning new culinary techniques and about the food industry during their stay. The seasoned French and American chefs were also able to learn from their peers and improve their skills even further than before. 

In the future, Chef Evans plans to work with Valarie McCall of Cleveland Sister Cities to create a chef ambassador program. The program could potentially expand from Rouen to Cleveland’s 21 other sister cities across the world and would transcend politics to connect people of different backgrounds based on their love and respect of food and the craft of cooking.