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J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College hosted ten Celebrity Chefs from India, who were visiting the United States for a two week culinary extravaganza as part of a sponsorship from a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service grant awarded to Alabama A & M University (AAMU) entitled The Cochran Fellowship Program.


The group visited New York City for four days, then visited Atlanta and Chattanooga for a couple of days.  While there, they visited several of the most popular eating establishments in those cities.  After those experiences, they arrived in Huntsville, to visit the campus of their host, AAMU. 


While in Huntsville, they visited several of the community’s downtown restaurants before attending a Culinary Arts Tasting at Drake State. One of their AAMU sponsors, Dr. Martha Verghese, Professor and Chair of AAMU’s Department of Food and Animal Sciences as well as Co-Principal Investigator of the grant, lead the tour.  Dr. Verghese escorted them to Pane e Vino, Kaffeeklatsch, Big Oh’s, Sam & Greg’s, and Below the Radar.  They also made a quick stop at Harrison Brothers Hardware.


Once they arrived to Drake State’s campus, Chef Darrell Echols and Chef Marvin McDaniel, along with many of Drake State’s culinary students, offered the delegation creative and delectable tastings of the following items:


Cajun: Shrimp-n-Grit Napoleon laced with Fried Green Tomatoes

Southern Soul Food:  Braised Kale with Hickory Smoked Turkey

New England: Fish Croquettes with Roasted Garlic Aioli

West Coast:  Pan-Asian Vegetable Pad Thai

South America: Grilled Beef Campechana


Chef Echols complimented the group on their expertise and their enthusiasm over the different food pairings. They all asked great questions and had fantastic culinary experience.  He asked the group what, if any, food they did not get to try since their visit to Alabama, and there were several that would’ve enjoyed a traditional peach cobbler, he learned. 

The AAMU Principal Investigator for this grant, Dr. Josh Herring, provided an excerpt from the program’s Request for Expressions of Interest document to explain more about the USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service’s Cochran Fellowship Program:

Since 1984, the U.S. Congress has made funds available to the Cochran Fellowship Program for training agriculturalists from middle-income countries and emerging market countries. Training opportunities are for senior and mid-level specialists and administrators working in agricultural trade and policy, agribusiness development, management, animal, plant, and food sciences, extension services, agricultural marketing, and many other areas. Individuals selected for Cochran trainings come from both the public and private sectors. All training occurs in the United States. Training programs are designed and organized in conjunction with U.S. universities, USDA and other government agencies, agribusinesses, and consultants. Since its start in 1984, the Cochran Fellowship Program has provided U.S.-based training for over 16,800 international participants from 124 countries worldwide.


The Cochran Fellowship Program offers short-term training opportunities, most ranging from 2 to 3 weeks in length, depending on the objectives of the program. During training programs Fellows meet with professionals in their fields, participate in field observations and industry visits, experience on-the-job training, attend university courses and seminars, attend agricultural expos or conventions, or participate in a combination of the above. No training, however, will be approved which directly enhances a country's ability to export goods in competition with the United States. Cochran Fellowship Program staff work closely with the Foreign Agricultural Service’s overseas offices and U.S. agricultural trade and market development associations to identify potential areas of training for countries participating in the Cochran Fellowship Program. Every effort is made to match U.S. agricultural interests with those of the recipient countries.

Pictured: Chef Echols addresses the visiting Celebrity Chefs from India who include Milind Patel, Preetika Gill Malik, Manjit Singh, Anupa Das, Megha Kohli, Thirugnanasambantham Kuppuswamy, Ranojit Kundu, Bhasin Manisha, Sachin Arvind Rayarikar and Priya Jashnani


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