Guillaume Gomez, head chef at France’s Elysee palace, answers questions during a cooking class for teenage members of Beit Dror, an Israeli NGO that supports LGBT rights.
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.
“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 centre of the country.
“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 organisation,” Gomez said.
“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” (House of Freedom, in English) is an emergency shelter for homeless LGBT youth located in Tel Aviv – the first and only of its kind in Israel. Beit Dror opens their doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adolescents who have been rejected and alienated from their homes and families because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Beit Dror provides them with basic living conditions: a safe home, warm bed, and hot meals; and also with necessary tools to find successful and joyful lives in Israeli society, such as social support, immediate and ongoing counseling, and educational assistance.