The chef at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem reportedly stepped out of line last week when he served dessert in a shoe to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, taking dinner etiquette to a new low for the guests whose home culture keeps footwear not just off the table but outside the front door.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sara hosted the Abes for dinner at their residence in Jerusalem during an official visit to Israel by the Japanese leader.
Celebrity chef Segev Moshe, who occasionally cooks for the Netanyahus when they are entertaining visiting dignitaries, dished up a gourmet spread which was rounded off with chocolate pralines served in two pairs of men’s black brogues, size unknown.
A Japanese diplomat told the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that whatever it was that Moshe was aiming at was lost on them.
“There is no culture in the world where you put shoes on a table,” the unidentified diplomat said. “What exactly did the illustrious chef Segev think to himself. We can’t understand what he was trying to say here. If it is humor then we don’t think it is funny. I can tell you we were offended on behalf of our prime minister.”
A senior Israel diplomat who had served in Japan told Yedioth that the unusual choice of tableware was “a dumb and insensitive decision.”
“There is nothing more despicable in Japanese culture than a shoe,” the diplomat continued. “Not only do they not enter their homes in shoes, you won’t find any shoes in their bureaus. Even the prime minister, ministers, and members of parliament, host in their bureaus without shoes. This is a failure and a diplomatic mockery. A disrespect of the highest order. It is like giving a Jewish guest chocolate inside a vessel in the shape of a pig.”
A source close to Segev explained to the paper that the dessert was not served in a real shoe but in a metal sculptures by industrial designer Tom Dixon. The artist’s website describes the pieces as doorstops.
The source noted that both prime ministers and their wives enjoyed the meal and that Prime Minister Abe even invited Segev to go and cook in Japan.