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US Consul General Meghan Gregonis pose with the book "My Food Story at the United States National Day celebrations in Dubai. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: A coffee-table book that showcases US culinary diplomacy is set to literally take off on a global fight from the UAE, said top US officials.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the 248th US Independence Day celebrations in Dubai on Thursday night, US officials handling the project said what started off as a small coffee table book turned into a big global project speaking the universal language of food.

“It has over 105 authors between executive chefs, ambassadors’ chefs, home cooks, celebrities and influencers,” said Valerie Brown, regional agricultural counsellor, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Regional Agriculture Office in Dubai

“We did home cooks’ competitions here in the UAE. They took place in Thailand, Japan, South Africa etc. We have chefs from probably about 70 or 80 different cities around the world.”

She said the project is a groundbreaking collaboration between the US Department of State and USDA. The two-year-project has seen the authors sharing their culinary journeys and stories, with special dedication to memories of Grandma’s cooking. These stories capture the essence of food and the special moments associated with it, reminding of the joy and nostalgia that comes with a memorable meal.

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Global tour

Each author has contributed 850-word stories to form the 520-page book.

The book is set to make a global tour with its main brand ambassador from the UAE and super chefs from each country passing it over to the next, said Brown. There will be a documentary on this journey.

The My Food Story Brand Ambassador is UAE-based entrepreneur and Netflix sensation Ebraheem Al Samadi.

Brown said Al Samadi would be flying with a signed copy of the book to the Philippines where he will meet with celebrity chef Happy Ongpauco-Tiu. “Then Happy and he will eat together and she’ll sign a book and then she’ll take it to the chef in Hong Kong and it will go on. So it’ll take one year around the world, ending in the US and we hope that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture may end up giving it to the President.”

Daleya Uddin, head of Public Affairs Section at the US Consulate in Dubai, said the project aims to boost US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s initiative to promote the power of culinary diplomacy. “We have 43 authors from the UAE including our Consul General in Dubai Meghan Gregonis,” she said.

Showcasing US ingredients

Gregonis said: “I am very excited about the My Food Story project because it’s an opportunity for showcasing not just the high-quality US ingredients, but also to tell the stories behind some of the recipes in the book.”

“For example, I discussed how I introduce American recipes, such as sweet potato pie, to our Emirati audiences as part of culinary diplomacy. It’s a special collaboration where we adapt traditional American dishes using ingredients which are common in the US, to create a unique culinary experience for our guests.”

AIM for Climate

Uddin said the UAE edition focuses on the special bilateral partnership between the UAE and the US called the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate which announced an investment of over $17 billion for innovation and research into new food technologies that are more climate smart during the COP28 summit in Dubai in December, 2023.

“Our goal is to have a big launch event either in May or June once the book is ready for the UAE edition.”

She said key UAE officials would be invited for the event and the US Ambassador to the UAE, Martina Strong, would present a copy of the book to UAE leaders and officials.

Several other culinary activities showcasing the rich tapestry of American food, agriculture, and culinary expertise are being held as part of the project. Some of them were held as part of the week-long Gulfood that ended on Friday.