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Kentucky chef Ouita Michel join American Culinary Corps

Chef Ouita Michel makes her version of Benedictine in the kitchen of Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky. on April 27, 2022.
Stephanie Wolf
Chef Ouita Michel makes her version of Benedictine in the kitchen of Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky. on April 27, 2022.

Chef Ouita Michel will join more than 80 other chefs and food professionals as members of the American Culinary Corps.

The U.S. State Department appointed the Kentucky chef to the program, which is a partnership between the James Beard Foundation and the State Department.

“It’s an incredible honor to be included with such amazing chefs from around the country, to serve the State Department and the James Beard Foundation in their diplomatic culinary partnership,” Michel said in a news release.

Michel owns Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky. in addition to several other restaurants near Lexington.

As a global culinary ambassador, Michel will travel within the U.S. and abroad using food and hospitality as diplomatic tools.

“My entire career has been dedicated to the idea that food can connect us to each other, to our communities, to our landscape, our past and our present. To think about sharing our American and Kentucky food culture and traditions as a way to bring the world together is inspiring,” Michel said in the release.

Michel will join other well-known figures in the culinary field such as Padma Lakshmi, Samin Nosrat and fellow Kentucky chef Edward Lee as ambassadors in the program.

“When we break bread with people, we learn something about each other in ways that transcend divisions of geography or language,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcoming ambassadors to the program. “In my own time as a diplomat, I have found that sitting down for a meal with my counterparts has often led to conversations, candor, exchanges that simply don’t happen when you’re in a conference room, a board room, in an official formal environment.”

Blinken said he’s found diplomacy can sometimes be done more efficiently in a dining room than a conference room.

Michel said she’s ready for the tasks of cooking in an environment where the shared language is making good food.

“I’m here for that, and if I am called to serve in the kitchen anywhere, I’m there and I’m bringing my trusty cast iron skillet and my bandana,” Michel said in the release.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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