Since 2013, the Gelinaz Shuffle has had chefs swapping places at their restaurants all around the world in what the website over-enthusiastically calls an event “even more exciting than swapping wives and husbands in the late 60s.” This year, things were different— chefs instead swapped recipes and were challenged to remix dishes from restaurants and cuisines they were likely unfamiliar with, in their own kitchens. It sounds like fun! But then, chef Gianluca Gorini of Michelin starred-restaurant daGorini in Italy, was assigned recipes from Victor Liong of Melbourne Essential Lee Ho Fook in Australia. Which Gorini took as license to post a really racist photo.
Much feted Italian restaurant daGorini did an event for @THEGELINAZ shuffle and here is a pic the chef Gianluca Gorini posted. It’s got way more likes than comments at the moment which is....staggering and gross and sadly, unsurprising. Truly fucked. pic.twitter.com/nLvPYEgSgM— Jen Agg (@TheBlackHoof) December 4, 2019
The Instagram post, now deleted but captured by restaurateur Jen Agg, shows Gorini and the kitchen staff (along with a child) wearing Asian conical hats and some of the staff pulling back the corners of their eyes. The blatantly racist gesture, as Agg points out, garnered a lot of likes as well as critical comments. By this morning, Gorini deleted the post, and replaced it with an apology accompanied by a photo of him basically going “aww, fiddlesticks” and looking like a kid who accidentally glitter-glued his art project to his desk.
“The shot in question was dictated by the excitement and enthusiasm that the confrontation with a new culture has generated in our daily work,” he wrote, “Now I realize, that I probably don’t know the subject of the question well enough and that I have underestimated its meaning.” He also tags Liong, and invites him to Italy to cook with him in his restaurant. Liong doesn’t appear to have commented on the situation publicly.
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Dear Victor Liong @smokeystevenson , Dear All, I never thought that a photo could generate all this. The shot in question was dictated by the excitement and enthusiasm that the confrontation with a new culture has generated in our daily work. Now I realize, that I probably don't know the subject of the question well enough and that I have underestimated its meaning. I am against all forms of violence and above all I am against all forms of racism. I strongly believe in confrontation, sharing and contamination with other cultures and countries as a stimulus for my growth and that of future generations. I apologize to all those who have felt offended and touched by the issue. It was not my intention to offend anyone, much less discriminate against other cultures. So please Victor, I would love to invite you to come in Italy and spent some days here in my restaurant as my guest, to celebrate the meaning of the relations between different cultures and make a four hands dinner together. Forgive me! @the_gelinaz --
Gelinaz as an organization revels in the language of chef badassery, calling this year’s Shuffle “small, humble but fucking daring turning point of an era,” and bemoaning the “Instagram(mable) junkies [and] PR-crackheads” that influence the food world. It also doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to equity. Its annual dinner has been criticized for not including many women chefs, and in 2013 at least, that was compounded with the event featuring hired topless women.
When asked about the lack of gender diversity in 2015, organizers Andrea Petrini and Alexandra Swenden said “we don’t want to feel socially pressured about this question,” and that “you don’t choose your friends and family by their gender at first,” echoing every time a marginalized person has heard they are somehow “not the right cultural fit” for what has traditionally been a white, male dominated industry. This year, the Gelinaz Shuffle has 32 women chefs (just over 21 percent), and only one chef from the entire continent of Africa.
As an organization, Gelinaz has also yet to publicly comment.
Update: December 5, 2:20 p.m.: Gelinaz said in a statement that because of Gorini’s behavior, he will not be invited to participate in any more of the organization’s events, and that proceeds from his dinner would be donated to The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism. The full statement reads as follows:
Gelinaz! was deeply shocked and stunned by the offensive and humiliating photo posted by Gianluca Gorini on his Instagram account during The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle. The goal of Gelinaz! is to denounce the rise of cleavages, clichés, withdrawal, populist and identity drifts.
We believe that the photo of Gianluca Gorini is unacceptable in any kind of situation and furthermore not compatible with the spirit and the Gelinaz! project. For this reason, Gelinaz! will no longer call on him for his future events and will do exactly the same for any other chef caught in similar inappropriate behaviour.
All proceeds and profits from the dinner organized by Gianluca Gorini will be donated to an association that fights against all forms of discrimination worldwide IMADR.
We will continue to fight with all our forces to bring down the walls, the prejudices and discriminations, to enhance communication beyond borders and act for humanity, integration and inclusivity.
As such, we truly believe that the best way to show Gianluca Gorini and his team that they acted wrongly is to accompany them so that their look on others can change. Therefore we support the initiative of both Chef Victor Liong (Lee Ho Fook) and Gianluca Gorini which consists of meeting in April 2020, at Gianluca Gorini’s place in San Piero in Bagno, and in Melbourne at Victor’s Lee Ho Fook, spending time together with their own families and cook together in a series of non profit fusional four hands dinners, in order to create dialogue and overcome ignorance. Dialogue and true communication are the best weapons to defeat prejudices and show that cuisine can be a bridge linking cultures and lifestyles across the globe.
The Gelinaz crew.