For all you culinary kings and queens out there, undoubtedly the hit Food Network show “Chopped” is on your must-watch list. It’s a hoot to see all those talented cooks turn “surprise” ingredients like Doritos, candy corn and dill pickle chips into an award-winning, one of a kind dish that will jolt the judge’s taste buds.
Well, one of the show’s sexiest winners in recent years, Chef Raffaele Ronca, has partnered with the important LGBTQI support group, The Rainbow Railroad, and he’s cooking up a storm for the causes of love and acceptance. I recently sat down with the Neapolitan-born Chef to discuss his new partnership with the Rainbow Railroad, in which he provides some of his succulent dishes for their fundraising galas, related events, and efforts to raise awareness.
Chef Raffaele explained, “I believe in giving back and supporting charities. There is one organization in particular that is close to my heart because of the work they do. They are supportive in helping people in one of the world’s most marginalized groups –the LGBTQI. Much like the historic Underground Railroad created a secret network of support to help the enslaved escape from harm and find safety and freedom, the Rainbow Railroad is similar in finding safe environments for those in the LGBTQI community who in their own countries face imprisonment, harm or death – all because of their sexuality.”
In recent headlines, there have been countless incidents involving the oppression of homosexuals, most alarmingly in Chechnya where it has resulted in gay men being imprisoned, tortured and executed. But this is not only occurring in Chechnya. According to the Independent UK, “Homosexuality remains illegal in 75 countries – of which five are prepared to sentence gay people to death; just for their sexual orientation.”
With their global rescue efforts to relocate LGBTQI refugees, the Rainbow Railroad is saving lives and giving them an opportunity to live without the threat of violence. The organization responds to people throughout the world who need a safe haven. Last year alone, they helped over 200 people, and they have a waiting list. Public support and private donations are what make the rescues and other efforts possible.
Raffaele is driven to give back to the world, with cooking as a passion that fuels his life, and as an immigrant who came to America years ago with little money and speaking no English, who is today as a successful restaurateur.
In addition to all his years of hard work, he acknowledges that part of his success is also owed to the kindness of others who showed him love and support along the way. He further expresses, “I’m proud to partner with the Rainbow Railroad on upcoming projects and events, and to build more visibility and support for their work. It fills me with joy to help more LGBTQI people get to safe spaces where they can find ample resources to survive and thrive.”
Chef Raffaele is the owner of Rafele NYC and RafeleRye in West Chester, NY. In addition, he was recently entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for one of his luxury signature culinary creations – “The World’s Most Expensive Cheese Cake” – which fetches a whopping $5000.