fbpx
Thursday, May 28, 2020

Celebrity Chefs Get a Taste of Israel

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Nancy Silverton, one of America’s top chefs, hadn’t given Israeli cuisine much thought until four years ago when her friend Steven Rothfeld asked her to write the introduction to “Israel Eats,” the cookbook he was planning to write and photograph.  

Rothfeld had photographed Silverton’s cookbook and told her at the time, “You’re not going to believe this, but the food [in Israel] is magical.” To which she responded, “I can’t believe the food in Israel is any good.”  

Silverton, co-founder of Los Angeles’s Osteria Mozza restaurant and recipient of the 2014 James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef Award, agreed to accompany Rothfeld on one of his research trips to Israel, where they ate their way through the country.  

“I was just blown away,” Silverton told the Journal last week during her latest visit to Israel. Silverton was a participant in what has been dubbed the Celebrity Chef Birthright. The Los Angeles Times called the Jan 27-Feb. 3 visit (which has no connection to the Birthright youth tours) “a sumptuous six-day excursion.” 

Twelve celebrity chefs took part in the tour. Organized by food event influencer Herb Karlitz, the tour was designed to put Israeli food and wine on the international food map. 

Chef Marc Murphy, Gail Simmons, Amanda Freitag, Herb Karlitz. Photos courtesy of Jackie Gebel @No Leftovers

“My goal is that a Nancy Silverton or Marc Murphy (Food Network chef and owner of the New York event space Landmarc) will consider putting Israeli wines on their wine list,” Karlitz said. “Why are they any less valid than other wines?” 

“These chefs have seen it all, done it all,” he added, “so to see the smiles on their faces while exploring the Carmel food market in Tel Aviv and eating a boreka that tastes like an old-fashioned calzone is gratifying.” 

In addition to receiving personalized guided tours of Israel’s best open-air food and produce markets, the chefs dined at top restaurants, visited wineries and met with farmers and agricultural innovators. They also visited child burn victims and met at-risk youth. 

The chefs’ dinner at Claro, a hot Tel Aviv restaurant in the trendy Sarona district, was one of the gastronomic highlights. Seated family-style in a sunroom at long wooden tables groaning under the weight of platters of antipasti, salads, breads and meat dishes, the chefs were relaxed and in a festive mood. 

Jonathan Waxman, named Best Chef in New York City in 2016 by the James Beard Foundation, said the food scene at Claro and in Israel as a whole reflects the market-fresh/field-to-table culture espoused by chef and food activist Alice Waters. Waxman said he decided to take this, his first visit to Israel, to see to what extent the field-to-table movement is embraced in the country. 

The Celebrity Chef Birthright team

“I’ve been happy to see that wherever we’ve gone, the whole kibbutz lifestyle of harvesting, working together, cooking and breaking bread together is alive and well,” he said. “We’ve seen this with the farmers, the winemakers, the bread bakers.”

Waxman said he especially enjoyed a meal prepared by a farmer and his wife. “He produces cheese from his goats, vegetables from produce he’s grown himself, olive oil from his own trees and he’s a really good chef. This guy epitomized farm-to-table. He harvested in the morning and either cooked what he harvested or prepared it raw, with love and joy and without pretense.”

Murphy, too, said he was excited by the earthy goodness of Israeli food. “The markets, the fresh food — the food is so beautiful. The amount of parsley being sold in the markets.” he said. “There’s a longstanding tradition of using spices like za’atar and herbs. I love it, I love it. The way it’s all used, it wakes up the food.” 

Murphy said he enjoyed Israel’s street food almost as much as the carefully prepared meals the chefs were served by top Israeli chefs. “We stopped by a falafel place … and we had warm chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and herbs dipped in pita. The flavors were so real,” he said. 

Silverton said Israeli food reflects the fact that Israel is a society of immigrants. “You just taste the culture. The mix of all the cultures,” she said. “Plus, Israelis eat family-style. They’re engaged with their food but don’t overanalyze it. This is so contrary to food today in the U.S and Europe, where food is so manipulated it feels like you’re at a shrine and not a table.”

She added, “Israelis eat from their hearts, and everyone is welcome.” 

Eden Grinsphan, Uri Navon (Machneyuda) Jonathan Waxman

For Silverton, a high point of the trip was visiting the cacophonous Carmel market, where stalls brimming with just-harvested fruits and vegetables (she couldn’t believe the size and color of the pomegranates) coexist alongside bakeries, restaurants and shops selling wine, cheese and spices.

At the market, the group divided into smaller groups, and each had a different itinerary. “When we came back, we all said, ‘My tour was better than your tour,’ ” Silverton said. 

While the chefs said they loved meeting Israeli experts in a variety of fields, Yaacov Oryah, the winemaker at the Psagot winery, called the opportunity to present his wine during the dinner at Claro “not just an opportunity but an obligation.” 

During the past two decades, Oryah said, Israeli wine has transformed itself into a product “that stands on its own merit. We’ve worked so hard to improve our quality, and we want the world to know about us.”


Michele Chabin is an award-winning journalist who reports from Jerusalem.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Pandemic Times Episode 48: Interviewing David Suissa

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. In honor of David's Hebrew birthday on the first morning of Shavuot, his daughter Shanni flips the script and...

ADL Backs Harvard in Lawsuit Challenging Race-Based Admissions Policies

BOSTON (JTA) – The Anti-Defamation League is supporting Harvard University in its effort to beat back a high-profile legal challenge to the school’s race-conscious...

‘Zionist Police State’ Banner Hung Next to U.K. Jewish Cemetery

A banner stating “Welcome to the Zionist police state” was hung next to the Bancroft Road Jewish Cemetery on May 24 and was taken...

Days of Our [Pandemic] Lives

The following is a work of satire. None of the people or incidents is real. Late January Cindy Upton, a 37-year-old mother of three from Calabasas,...

Thoughts from the Bakery: Quarantine Ignites Creativity for Small Businesses

First of all, a quick update on the loan process that I described in the past couple of entries. When I last wrote, we...

Giving in Times of the Coronavirus

For many, during these times, it’s all too easy to slip into hibernation after a steady diet of Netflix, while suffering existential angst, anxiety...

LAJFF Hosts ‘Unorthodox’ Director Maria Schrader for Webinar About Hit Series

Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s best-selling memoir about leaving her Chasidic community, miniseries “Unorthodox” has been a hit for Netflix since its March premiere—but has...

Being Jewish Doesn’t Mean You’re Not a ‘Karen’

"Karen" is finally receiving her well-deserved reckoning. Well, this week her name is Amy Cooper, but what she represents is a collective societal outcry...

A Moment in Time: Don’t Look Down

Dear all, As this squirrel scampered across the telephone wire, I wondered, “How on earth does it keep its balance?” Then I remembered advice given to...

Revelation in Quarantine

Today is my 40th birthday. It is also a week bookmarked by Memorial Day and Shavuot. All of it coming on the heels of...

Culture

LAJFF Hosts ‘Unorthodox’ Director Maria Schrader for Webinar About Hit Series

Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s best-selling memoir about leaving her Chasidic community, miniseries “Unorthodox” has been a hit for Netflix since its March premiere—but has...

Corona-Quarantined and Hungry? Travel and Eat Vicariously With Phil Rosenthal

During these times of isolation and not going to restaurants, Phil Rosenthal’s globe-hopping Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil” is a tasty treat for those...

6 Inexpensive Ways to Upgrade Your Patio

With most of us spending so much more time at home lately, it’s no wonder that the sales of home furniture and accessories has been...

WWII Is Told Through An Egyptian Jew’s Letters to Her Beloved In New Nonfiction Book

The premise of “Love in the Blitz: The Long-Lost Letters of a Brilliant Young Woman to Her Beloved on the Front” (Harper) may strike...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Latest Articles
Latest

Pandemic Times Episode 48: Interviewing David Suissa

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. In honor of David's Hebrew birthday on the first morning of Shavuot, his daughter Shanni flips the script and...

ADL Backs Harvard in Lawsuit Challenging Race-Based Admissions Policies

BOSTON (JTA) – The Anti-Defamation League is supporting Harvard University in its effort to beat back a high-profile legal challenge to the school’s race-conscious...

‘Zionist Police State’ Banner Hung Next to U.K. Jewish Cemetery

A banner stating “Welcome to the Zionist police state” was hung next to the Bancroft Road Jewish Cemetery on May 24 and was taken...

Days of Our [Pandemic] Lives

The following is a work of satire. None of the people or incidents is real. Late January Cindy Upton, a 37-year-old mother of three from Calabasas,...

Thoughts from the Bakery: Quarantine Ignites Creativity for Small Businesses

First of all, a quick update on the loan process that I described in the past couple of entries. When I last wrote, we...

Hollywood


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

‘Arrowverse’ Showrunner Greg Berlanti on Whether He’s Jewish or Not

Greg Berlanti is the executive producer of “Arrow,” “Supergirl,” “Titans,” “Riverdale” and “The Flash.” Between keeping his die-hard DC fans satisfied, the mega-producer also...

Jewish Grandpa Seeks Out The Family Who Hid Him From Nazis in Documentary “The Starfish”

New York director and producer, Tyler Gildin, through his media company Gildin Media, released a documentary titled The Starfish, exploring the life story of his grandfather,...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 48: Interviewing David Suissa

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. In honor of David's Hebrew birthday on the first morning of Shavuot, his daughter Shanni flips the script and...

Giving in Times of the Coronavirus

For many, during these times, it’s all too easy to slip into hibernation after a steady diet of Netflix, while suffering existential angst, anxiety...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x