Chef Shimi Aaron: Being Babka King, the Art of Food and Eggplant Carpaccio

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 1
May 3, 2023
Photo by Shimi Aaron

Chef Shimi Aaron’s zest for life and love for all things food, cooking and community stands out.

“I honestly believe that you really have to love what you do, especially when it’s food,” Aaron said. “It’s not something you just give someone, and they look at it. They literally put this energy into their body. To me this energy is super important.”

Photo by Dirk Verest

Aaron’s love for food started at an early age, although it was years before he took on the title of chef.

“I remember growing up around a lot of food,” Aaron said. “The question was always, ‘What are we going to eat today?’ And then, when my mom speaks to other family members, it’s ‘What did you cook today?’ Or ‘What are you making tomorrow?’”

Growing up, being a chef or a baker wasn’t really a career option. However, in 2014, after moving from New York to Europe, Aaron found his way into cooking professionally.

“I cooked Shabbat dinner for my family [in London] one night — for my cousin and her kids and her husband — and they decided to hire me to cook for them every week for Shabbat,” he said.

And the word spread. “I started taking it more seriously, and started cooking for other people.”

While in Europe, Aaron received a recipe for babka. Babka is a braided bread, filled with a variety of stuffings. He fell in love with the aesthetics of it and, over two years, perfected it. Aaron started teaching babka workshops around Europe; people would buy tickets to watch him bake.

In early 2020 Aaron moved to Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter was discovered by Bill Addison of The Los Angeles Times. Addison featured the chef and dubbed Aaron “The Future Babka King.”

“I went from selling three babkas a week to selling 300 babkas a week,” he said.

Babkas can be sweet or savory, as well as in different shapes.

“There’s a classic one, which is the chocolate ganache and the hazelnut,” Aaron said. “Then I make it vegan. I have the halvah … and another one that is shaped like a flower.

He has pizza babka, pesto babka and my savory, which is the za’atar seasoning with feta cheese.”

For the full story, read my interview with the King of Babka.

Aside from babka … Aaron loves vegetables. His favorite is eggplant, as it’s very versatile. See below for the chef’s Eggplant Carpaccio recipe.

“I’m Israeli,” he said. “We cook loads of vegetables … I love to take vegetables and actually turn them into the main course of the meal … There’s something about vegetables that I just adore, and I love to give [them] the respect [they] deserve.”

Aaron likes the food he eats to look good as it tastes.

“I set up the table for breakfast for myself,” he said. “It’s not just for Instagram or for photos. I need to look at food that looks beautiful; it makes me want to eat it more.”

Regardless of where, what and how you eat, Aaron believes food “brings people together in a way that nothing else does.”

For my full conversation with Shimi Aaron, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

And to learn more about Shimi Aaron, go to ShimiAaron.com or follow @Chef_Shimi_Aaron on Instagram.

* * *

Chef Shimi Aaron’s Eggplant Carpaccio  

2 large eggplants

For the marinade:

½ cup olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 minced garlic cloves

½ tsp table salt

¼ cup chopped parsley

For topping:

6 full Tbsp of the marinade

6 Tbsp raw tahini

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

One squeezed lemon (juice)

1 Tbsp pomegranate seeds

1 tsp fresh chopped parsley

Ground sumac


Using a fork, punch holes all around the eggplants. Place the eggplants on (preferably) exposed fire, either on a BBQ (preferably) or your stove. Make sure to stay nearby all the  time. Char the eggplants for about 10 minutes, depending on how big your eggplants are. You want to char it all around until it’s super soft and skin is burned.

Remove from the fire and set it aside to cool down.

Meanwhile, make the marinade. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

After the eggplants have cooled down, peel them completely and try to keep their shape as much as  you can. Place the eggplants in the marinade. Let it sit at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Place the eggplants on a large plate. Start with the toppings. First, the tahini and lemon juice. Drizzle the molasses then the marinade. Pomegranate seeds and parsley are next, followed by the ground sumac.

Serve and enjoy!

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.” Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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