In recognition that April is Jazz Appreciation Month in the United States, AIT’s Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) and the Southern US Trade Association (SUSTA) will support a visit to Taiwan by Cajun Chef Roy Lyons from Rayne, Louisiana from April 10-22, 2007.Among the high quality food ingredients promoted was US medium grade rice, which all contestants were required to use. Six chefs were competing to see who could produce the best jambalaya. Other US ingredients, such as processed meats, were to be used as well in what was part of a month-long promotion. UPDATED: I should add that the competition was an NT$1,800 a plate dinner.
Chef Roy is a celebrity chef who travels around the world introducing people everywhere to Cajun cuisine which is a "fusion" blend of French, Spanish, German, African, and native American Indian foods. From April 10 – 22, 2007, Chef Roy will participate in a series of events organized by the ATO to promote Cajun cuisine using high quality U.S. food ingredients from media lunches, to commercial chef training programs, to a Jambalaya cooking competition on the 85th floor of Taipei 101.
My first response when I heard about this was "What's jambalaya?" Having never been nearer to New Orleans than the freeway exit outside of it, I had no clue.
Looking it up, one finds that it is basically rice simmered or fried in a spicy tomato-based sauce, with various kinds of meat. It's easy to see that this would be a big hit here, since Taiwan has no fried-rice dishes of its own, and spicy dishes from abroad are in big demand, as anyone could tell from the Sri Lankan curry houses found all over the island.
Hey wait a second....
Yes, you read that right. Somebody paid a chef in Taipei to promote fried rice in Taiwan.
The US actually exports rice here (we're usually the #3 or #4 exporter of rice in the world), though Taiwan does not need it. Nearly all US rice exports to Taiwan are exports of California rice. The purchases are made not because Taiwan needs it, but because the island committed to minimum imports under the WTO agreements (Read here for everything you want to know about US rice exports). The mind boggles to imagine that a US trade association is spending buckets of cash promoting sale of a product the island is self-sufficient in but is more or less forced to purchase, from an industry that is only profitable because of massive water and agricultural subsidies (EWG says California has received $2 billion in rice subsidies 1995-2005 -- that's just agricultural subsidies). The entire northeast Asian market of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea is worth a piddling $200 million to California -- and all of it is purchased under the WTO agreements.
One could go on all day about the subsidy situation, but what stands out about this Jambalaya cook off is that a trade association (SUSTA, in this case) paid good money to promote food that Taiwanese have zero interest in -- Cajun cuisine. From my angle it looks like somebody was having a really good time on someone else's dime....but perhaps I'm just too cynical.
[Taiwan] [US] [WTO]