The head chef of the French presidential palace was in Israel on Monday to teach Jewish and Arab gay people rejected by their families how to cook for themselves.
A dozen excited young people were on hand at the French ambassador’s residence in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, waiting timidly for Guillaume Gomez’s instructions.
The 39-year-old chef, who has been working for French presidents at the Elysee Palace for 20 years, visited the Jewish state for the class.
“I will teach you simple recipes that you can remake,” Gomez told the youths.
One of those listening intently was a young man from an ultra-Orthodox family who has had no contact with them since he announced his homosexuality at the age of 16.
“Meeting this chef is an extraordinary experience,” said the young man who asked to be named only as “O.”
O lives at Beit Dror, an organization which supports gay people in Israel, while attending cooking classes at a school in the center of the country.
Gomez taught the young people to make cannelloni spinach gratin and apple pie.
“What a chance to cook alongside a chef of this level,” said O, who speaks French and thus helped others in the class to understand Gomez’s instructions.
Gomez is taking part for the sixth year in a row in the “So French, So Food” festival in Israel, which brings around 20 prominent French chefs to work with Israeli counterparts.
“Every year I support a charitable cause and put my name at the service of an organization,” Gomez said.
He was the youngest person to win the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France award for chefs in 2004, when he was just 25.
“It’s good for them to participate in this workshop. This moment of happiness for these young people is not insignificant,” said Yael Doron, director of Beit Dror.
Beit Dror has 14 beds for young people rejected by their families who are homeless and sometimes even forced into prostitution, Doron said.
Most come from religious Jewish or Muslim families.
“Beit Dror saved my life,” said an 18-year-old referred to as “L” and wearing ripped jeans and a black T-shirt.
His father is Muslim and his mother Christian and he said he was a victim of physical violence during his adolescence.
“I don’t believe in religion any more; I believe in myself now,” he said.