Auburn University Culinary Science director creates food tour for Ukrainian visitors

Published: December 17, 2019
Updated: December 19, 2019
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Auburn University’s Mark Traynor recently crafted an American food tour for five Ukrainian culinary leaders that showcased the diversity, creativity and quality of U.S. cuisine.

Traynor, director of the Culinary Science program in the College of Human Sciences, served as principal investigator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Gastronomy Education and Promoting U.S. Cuisine for Ukraine program—the first program to feature contemporary American cuisine in the Southeast, designed to increase U.S. exports in areas of the world that would benefit from American products.

Through the USDA’s Cochran Fellowship Program, five fellows participated in Traynor’s culinary tour of Auburn, Atlanta, Miami and New York City and learned restaurant functions, culinary trends, cooking techniques, innovative marketing, food production, U.S. food products, food and drink pairings, crop seasons and U.S. food quality standards.

“We showed them true, contemporary American cuisine and a representation of gastronomy in the area,” said Traynor. “These fellows are all influential chefs in Ukraine, so they can disseminate a true representation of our regional cuisine, which results in their importing of products from here, whether it’s technology and equipment, spice mixes, sauces or other items.”

In Auburn, Traynor led the fellows through important lessons on the diversity of U.S. cuisine, brewing, Southern food trends, food production, food pairing, sustainable practices, artisan food, locally sourced and farm-to-table practices, smoked meat preparation, restaurant management practices and barbecue. The U.S. has what Traynor calls the “gold standard” of barbecue equipment, techniques and spices.

According to Igor Bragin, who founded the National Association of Head Chefs in Ukraine and the Culinary Academy of Ukraine, smoked American foods, such as barbecue, are increasingly trendy in his home country. Kateryna Avdeeva, who runs an innovative culinary education center with students spanning Eastern Europe, said her goal is to organize a barbecue training center for chefs.

“Barbecue is very new in Ukraine, and many people think that there is only one style of it. I want to have a classroom in my educational center dedicated to barbecue,” she said. “I plan on buying American equipment, using American spices and inviting American barbecue chefs to Ukraine to train these chefs so that they can take advantage of these lessons.”

In Atlanta, Traynor introduced the Ukrainian culinary leaders to food markets, American desserts, health foods, coffee, global flavors and elevated street food. These lessons continued in Miami with an immersive experience in the realm of organic foods, health trends, fine dining, hotel restaurants, fusion cuisine, kosher foods, seafood and U.S. cuisine trends.

The fellows ended their immersive culinary journey in New York City with lessons about fusion cuisine, emerging food trends, food halls, food production, restaurant functions, seasonal foods and authentic New York cuisine. Traynor said New York is historically known as a hub for emerging food trends, which ended the program on a forward-thinking note for the Ukrainian chefs.

Designed to increase U.S. exports in areas of the world that would benefit from American products, the USDA Cochran Fellowship Program uniquely positioned Traynor and Auburn’s Culinary Science program to not only positively affect the American economy, but to dispel myths about American cuisine.

Those myths will be a challenge for Auburn’s Culinary Science students to overcome in the professional world. Auburn hospitality students will soon have a unique opportunity for immersive, hands-on preparation in the upcoming Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center—a first-of-its kind academic facility that will expertly prepare tomorrow’s top-tier culinary and hospitality leaders to help reshape the worldview of American cuisine.

“This is an opportunity for Auburn to lead a movement to tell the world about the positive story of American gastronomy,” said Traynor. “As a culinary educator training culinary professionals, it is my duty and passion to help overcome the idea that American cuisine as a whole is unhealthy. By showing culinary influencers from other countries the true essence of healthy, sustainable American food, we can make a difference in not only developing economies, but promote American products and shed a positive light on our craft.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.