Liviu Dragnea, the former leader of Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD), has reappeared in the public eye as the presenter of his YouTube cookery channel.
As the leader of Romania’s biggest party, Dragnea was one of the country's most influential politicians. His party’s attempt to partly decriminalise corruption – seen as aimed at keeping Dragnea out of prison – sparked the biggest protests in Romania since the fall of communism in 2017.
This eventually forced a humiliating climbdown by the government installed by Dragnea, who was later sentenced for corruption and served two years in prison before being paroled in 2021.
The PSD, which is part of the current ruling coalition alongside the centre-right National Liberal Party (PNL), sought to distance itself from Dragnea after he was sent to prison.
No longer a powerful political figure, Dragnea appeared on his Bucătăria de acasă (The Home Kitchen) channel on April 3, showing viewers how to make a traditional Romanian bean dish. He has also launched on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
As of the morning of April 4 the YouTube video had received over 320,000 views, with viewers getting to see Dragnea chopping carrots and seasoning a pan of vegetables.
Over 3,300 people commented, but most of the comments mocked Dragnea over his political record and prison sentence.
“‘Stay till the end to find out how I got out of Lidl with all the ingredients without setting off the alarm’,” joked one commentator.
“Thank you for the delicious taci recipe, we hope that next time we can learn how to launder money!” said another.
Yet another viewer commented: “I encourage you to develop this skill. As long as you stay away from politics, you are welcome.”
Dragnea was sent to prison after being found guilty in a case concerning fake jobs for PSD workers at Teleorman county Child Directorate: two people employed by the directorate were in fact engaged on PSD business. The politician appealed against the sentence, but in May 2019 Romania’s high court upheld its decision.
This was Dragnea’s second criminal conviction, following one in the case related to the referendum against then-president Traian Basescu in 2012, when Dragnea made use of his position in the public administration to increase the turnout. The earlier conviction prevented Dragnea from becoming prime minister, but he was the power behind a series of prime ministers appointed by the PSD between 2017 and 2019.
Dragnea is not the only high-profile politician to have shared his cookery skills with the world.
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, his wife Hannelore and chef Alfons Schuhbeck co-wrote ‘A Culinary Voyage Through Germany’, with hundreds of traditional German recipes for dishes such as potato pancakes and hearty stews.
The UK’s former education minister and shadow chancellor Ed Balls won BBC reality show Celebrity Best Home Cook and went on to author Appetite, a memoir interspersed with recipes.