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October 1, 2014

José Andrés Dishing Out Food Politics, Policy This Spring

Restaurateur José Andrés is exporting his insights into the intersection of food and culture to George Washington University. And he will share the sum total of his experience with those who carve out room in their spring schedule to join his inaugural “World on a Plate” course.

The class marks a new chapter in Andrés’ relationship with the university. He has previously served on GWU’s Urban Food Task Force, advised GWU President Steven Knapp on food policy issues and assisted in the development of the School Without Walls pilot program.

“Food is that thread that runs through the fabric of society: culture, energy, art, science, the economy, national security, the environment, health, politics and diplomacy,” Andrés said in a release touting his leap from Think Food Group boardroom to classroom, adding, “Eating is the one thing, besides breathing, that we all do from the day we are born until the day we die.”

The globe-trotting toque and newly minted American Chef Corps member — part of a group of 90-odd cheflebrities tapped to be “chef ambassadors” by the State Department earlier this year — won’t lead every class discussion but is expected to help craft the curriculum.

While the syllabus remains a work in progress, a GWU aide held out hope that themes including “food and public health,” “food and national security,” “food and international aid,” “hunger” and “obesity” would be addressed throughout the semester.

“’Food and Politics’ will not only look back at how the government shaped many of our food choices, but also to today at agro-business lobbyists, the farm bill, the food pyramid and food plate discussions,” the GWU spokeswoman suggested.

Those tentatively expected to pinch hit when Andres steps away from the plate include: Agriculture Department Food Safety Deputy Administrator Philip Derfler, “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit curator Alice Kamps, “On Food and Cooking” author Harold McGee and “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern.

Andrés’ course is just the latest in a string of food-related discussions GWU has fostered at its Foggy Bottom campus. The school has explored the primal topic across various disciplines, including: “Sociology of Food” (sociology), “People, Land and Food” (geography), “Let’s Eat: Food and American Culture” (Judaic studies program), “Recipes, Politics and Power” (writing program) and “Global Food Security” (international affairs), as well as a non-credit “Seminar on Food” delving into topics as diverse as the politics of “fresh” food to school lunches. A separate dean’s seminar on “Food Politics” is also being added to the course catalog in early 2013.

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