I love it when chefs get creative, but this one was a swing and a miss.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife for dinner, celebrity chef Segev Moshe served dessert in what looked like a shoe. Black leather brogues, to be precise.
In almost every case of a state dinner, the Ministry of Protocol is involved to advise the chef on things like seating arrangements, dining customs and preferences of the visitor, and presumably, whether seeing shoes on the table would be offensive to Asian visitors. It is almost unbelievable that at some point, Chef Moshe, PM Netanyahu’s kitchen staff, and perhaps even PM Netanyahu himself were not told, “Hey, the shoe thing is probably a bad idea.” At some point, someone decided, “Yeah, we know, but we’re going to do it anyway. It’ll be a goof.”
Shoes of course, in Asian culture, are never worn inside the home, usually not worn inside the place of business, you don’t cross your legs so your feet point towards anybody, and it goes without saying, they don’t belong on the dining table in a proper Asian household. Even if the shoes are themselves artistic (but very realistic) representations of shoes, as was the case with Chef Moshe’s presentation, rather than shoes that have been on somebody’s feet.
I do have some inside insight into the shoe thing, and my Thai wife will always give me a stern reminder and a raised eyebrow if I forget to leave my shoes at the door. Shoes just don’t belong in the house, anywhere. The presentation on PM Netanyahu’s table was an insult of the highest order.
The dessert – chocolate pralines – were no doubt delicious, but serving them inside of a stylized shoe would be akin to, as many on social media have observed, serving dessert at an Orthodox Jewish table inside of a replica of a pig.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry – along with Japanese diplomats – were taken aback, according to Israeli press reports, noting in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that “Japanese diplomats, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and high-ranking Israeli diplomats who previously served in Japan were shocked by the idea.” According to the news report, Israel’s Foreign Ministry was not involved in approving the dishes.
If the insult was not intentional, then somebody in the Foreign Ministry wasn’t doing their job. Oversight of important dinners and advice on protocol and etiquette is standard fare for any foreign office, and somebody along the line should have known better.