Using culinary philosophies to 'renew' cultural diplomacy

Update: 15:03 | 21/10/2019
Talking with The World and Vietnam Report on the occasion of the “Vietnam Cuisine Day in France” taking place from 17-18 October in Perpignan (France), Deputy Director of the Department of Cultural Diplomacy and UNESCO (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Tran Quoc Khanh said that cuisine is a new approach to create highlights in introduction and promotion of Vietnam’s image to the world.
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The event “Vietnam Cuisine Day in France” was organised by the Department of Cultural Diplomacy and UNESCO to introduce the culinary quintessence of Vietnam, especially those of localities with UNESCO-recognized heritages.

Why is cuisine?

According to Tran Quoc Khanh, comprehensive diplomacy consists of three main pillars: political diplomacy, economic diplomacy and cultural one besides overseas Vietnamese affairs. These are mutually reinforcing elements in the process of achieving the ultimate goal of creating, introducing images and conveying Vietnam’s messages to the world.

Currently, Vietnam has been actively preparing for two major external events: non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council 2020-2021 and Chairman of ASEAN 2020. In multilateral diplomacy, besides political activities, cultural ones always have own strengths because of their softness, approachability. “Therefore, cultural diplomacy in the current context requires more efforts and creativity”, Khanh emphasized.

Khanh said, in recent years, the Department of Cultural Diplomacy and UNESCO has organized many programs and activities to promote the image of the country and people of Vietnam in many countries around the world, which received the attention of foreign leaders, international communities as well as Vietnamese people at home and abroad.

In 2019, for the first time, the Department decided to upgrade the “Vietnam Cuisine Day” to a series of events in a number of representative countries with the first destination was Mediterranean-side Perpignan in the South of France.

The event was supported by the Vietnamese Embassy in France, the Vietnamese Representative Delegation to the UNESCO, the School of Tourism and Cooking of Bourquin (Perpignan, France), and Vinpearl Company. Other major participants were the Vietnam Chefs’ Association, Vietravel, Honeco, and Song Hy Tea.

Based on the UNESCO’s definition of culture, Khanh affirmed that culture is the source and the inner strength creating the comprehensive strength of Vietnam. Culture is an everlasting value that everyone needs.

“Maybe in some moments of the past we temporarily forgot that value to spend resources for other affairs, but at some point we will have to go back to culture. For Vietnam, cultural quintessence is crystallized through cuisine. It is an inspiration for the Department of Cultural Diplomacy and UNESCO to choose cuisine as a new approach to create highlights in introduction and promotion of Vietnam’s image to the world.

using culinary philosophies to renew cultural diplomacy
Mayor of Collioure and Mr. Tran Quoc Khanh. (Photo: Bao Chi)

Making the difference

Sharing about the preparation for the “Vietnam Cuisine Day in France”, Khanh said that although cuisine has been promoted in a number of Vietnam’s external activities, this event was different.

Accordingly, instead of introducing Vietnamese cuisine through specific dishes, Vietnamese culinary philosophies such as balance, diversity, fresh ingredients, medical effects,… would be focused in promotion and introduction to international friends. Each region of Vietnam has its own specialties which have unique taste and imbrued with deep Vietnamese culture.

Besides, the activities of introducing Vietnamese culinary quintessence would be in association with promoting UNESCO-recognized heritages. With the theme “Journey to Vietnam’s World Heritages”, the organizing committee hoped to create a culinary festival associated with a cultural space and Vietnam’s natural landscape, leaving an impression of a peaceful and beautiful Vietnam with unforgettable flavors in the heart of Vietnamese friends.

Especially, on this occasion, five best chefs of Vietnam have cooked traditional dishes which are still modern, internationally intergrated with simple, subtle presentation, attracting foreign visitors.

Chairman of Vietnam Chefs’ Association Nguyen Thuong Quan shared: “To show the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, the chefs presented the taste of Hue (sticky rice dumpling on a pancake), flavors of the Central Region (fried pancake, shrimp spring roll), Saigon’s summer roll, Ha Noi grilled fish,… The French often eat with their senses. They observe dishes very carefully before eating them.”

Explaining the reason of choosing the coastal city of Perpignan which is also a famous tourism destination of France as the event venue, Khanh said this would be a good opportunity to promote the Vietnamese cuisine to a large number of influential eaters.

“The targeted participants of this event were quite selective with about 2,000 guests who were the representatives of French government, businesses working in the fields of food and tourism, owners of restaurants and hotels, press, students of tourism or cooking schools,…”, Khanh added.

The main contents of the program included: Performing, introducing the essence of Vietnamese cuisine; a symposium introducing UNESCO heritage sites in Vietnamese and Vietnamese culinary arts; an exhibition of eight UNESCO heritage sites in Vietnam and some quintessential Vietnamese culinary products; an exchange of Vietnamese - French chefs.
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(TGVN)