With food, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is wielding one of our country’s greatest soft power assets. In the past, guests arriving at State Department dinners could expect to be served French fare. Nowadays, deputy chef Christopher James plans menus featuring American dishes composed of ingredients sourced from local bounty.

As is often the case in diplomacy, compromises and exceptions are always within the realm of possibility. Ming Tsai was called upon to oversee the dinner for Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, James works slight flourishes into his mostly American repertoire—different spicing or presentation style, for example—to honor the guest’s country of origin.

Recently, superstar chef Jose Andrés designed the menu for a meeting of protocol chiefs from around the world. As part of the meal, Louisiana Gulf shrimp was served to remind guests of the impact of Hurricane Katrina and importance of supporting American resources, as well as small fishermen.

[via The Washington Post]