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America's Best Chefs Answer The Call To Serve Their Nation

The State Department is deploying a new, elite force onto the precarious stage of international diplomacy. More than 80 top chefs from across the nation were inducted into the first-ever American Chef Corps on Friday.

How will these culinary soldiers serve their country? The Associated Press says:

"These food experts could help the State Department prepare meals for visiting dignitaries, travel to U.S. embassies abroad for educational programs with foreign audiences or host culinary experts from around the world in their U.S. kitchens."

The list of chefs is enough to make most Americans salivate: Jose Andres, Top Chef competitors Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio, Ming Tsai, Art Smith, Vikram Sunderam, Rick Bayless and Alex Young, to name a few.

And like any special forces team, membership comes with a uniform — a spiffy navy blue jacket sporting the American flag, the State Department seal and the chef's name embroidered in gold.

These fresh State Chefs aren't getting paid to be food ambassadors; they're donating their skills. The Washington Post reports the Chef Corps is being supported with a mix of public and private funds, including from food manufacturer Mars and china-maker Lenox.

Though wielding knives isn't usually considered good diplomacy, The Post adds that the new league is a powerful asset to Hillary Clinton's soft-power strategy:

" 'Factoring in others' tastes, ceremonies and values is an overlooked and powerful part of diplomacy,' Clinton responded to a request from The Washington Post. 'The working meals I attend with foreign leaders build stronger bonds between countries and offer an important setting to further the vital diplomatic work we conduct every day.'"

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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