Those of you who are familiar with the Amira Group may have heard of the phrase “Food Connect”. Food Connect is the idea that food lies at the very essence of bonding, and that great cuisine has the unique ability to bring together people and cultures all over the world through the universal language of food. Food Connect is connecting people with the language of food – an Amira ideology, vision and mission.
The use of food as a cultural and diplomatic tool is not a new thing however, and in recent years even national governments have realized the power food can have as a tool of cultural diplomacy. One example of this was the ‘Global Thai Program’. Launched in 2002 as the first government led culinary development initiative, the programme built Thai restaurants around the world and launched projects that spread knowledge and promoted Thai cuisine as a way of promoting the culture and economy of Thailand. More recently, the Malaysian government embarked on a programme of culinary diplomacy in 2010, recruiting world-renowned celebrity chefs including Rick Stein and Norman Musa as a way of increasing recognition of Malaysian cuisine abroad.
The power of food to unite cultures is not something that is solely the provinces of national governments, however, and there are several prominent examples of the power of food to build cultural bridges.
One well-known example includes the rise of Indian food in the UK. Restaurants serving Indian and South Asian cuisine first became popular in the UK as people from South Asia began immigrating to the country in large numbers during the 1950s and 1960s, with many of the new immigrants setting up restaurants serving their national cuisine. While these restaurants initially began as a way of catering to local immigrant communities, they soon rapidly expanded in popularity amongst Britons of all ethnic backgrounds, with many chefs tailoring their menus to become more adaptable to British cultural palates, and creating distinctive new British-Indian dishes in the process. Such is the role that food has played into the integration of the British Asian community that in 2001, the then British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared Chicken Tikka Masala as a “true national dish”. This is rather unique as Indian Restaurants in the UK serve food from the Indian Sub Continent creating a unification of the subcontinent with the language of food.
Through the recent establishment of the Amira Foundation, our company’s charitable foundation, we aim to take the power of Food Connect a step further. The Amira Foundation is, at its core, a food education charity through which we hope to educate people around the world on healthy eating, with a focus on nutrition. It is our ultimate mission, however, for the Amira Foundation to work as an extension of our Food Connect and to act as a channel through which we can foster relationships and raise awareness of international hunger and nutrition, all through the common language of food.