Federico Barttfeld’s father was a diplomat. But that’s not why he became one himself. “I had to attend public school in Romania during Ceausescu’s time,” he shares, referring to Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s last communist leader who ran a totalitarian regime. “That was the closest to living in an Orwellian society with Big Brother watching you all the time. People were deprived of most freedoms that we take for granted today.” Despite – or because of – this harrowing childhood memory, George Orwell’s 1984 hits very close to home for Barttfeld, and he considers it his favourite book.
His choice of career, however, has to be credited to another man and another book: Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist best known for writing The End of History and the Last Man. Published in 1992, the ideas proposed in the book took mid-90s society – including Barttfeld – by storm. “The future seemed bright, and globalisation was taken for granted. Diplomacy seemed a way to deepen collaboration and interdependence among countries,” he recalls.
When it comes to his overseas assignments, he has certainly been more fortunate than his father, so far. But Barttfeld makes it clear that it’s not always fun and games. “Many people see only the glamourous side of diplomacy,” he says, “such as the dinners and cocktail events organised by the embassies. They don’t realise that after a hard day’s work in the office, networking during events is just another important duty we have to engage in.”
When he’s not obliged to be on the receiving end of the wining and dining, Barttfeld is an enthusiastic home cook who much prefers to play host. “I was one of the special guest chefs at the 6-Hands Argentinian Gastronomic Feast event held at Skai restaurant during the World Gourmet Summit last year,” he says with pride.