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Monday, October 26, 2020

The Man Building the Galilee Culinary Institute

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Nathan Hoffman has been tapped to build and launch the Galiliee Culinary Institute. “To me, food is fuel,” Hoffman said. “You can literally give me a food drip with all my nutrients and I’d be happy.” 

An ambitious project initiated and funded by the American Jewish National Fund, Hoffman said, “It will be a center for immersive culinary experiences, innovation and excellence; a global beacon of culinary innovation and experiences.” 

The Institute also will be the hub of an emerging ecosystem linking foodtech, agritech, chefs, restaurateurs and other industry professionals and with celebrity Israeli chefs such as Lior Lev Sercarz and Michael Solomonov lending support to the project.

As part of the JNF’s “Go North” strategic vision to strengthen and grow the Galilee region, the Institute will be situated in one grand complex on Kibbutz Gonen. 

“[We’re] utilizing the assets of the region — the food, the culture, over 70 ethnicities in a very small area in the Galilee,” Hoffman said. “And also so much of the produce in Israel is coming from the north. [We] have wineries up the wazoo, honey, organic farms, goat farms. All this stuff in such close proximity makes it a very unique environment.”

Hoffman sees himself as part of the new wave of Zionist pioneers. “This is really the new pioneering,” he said. “The old [pioneers] were building with shovels, but the new ones are changing the world.” 

“[We’re] utilizing the assets of the region — the food, the culture, over 70 ethnicities in a very small area in the Galilee.”

Originally from Silver Spring, Md., Hoffman and his wife made aliyah 2 1/2  years ago and settled in Safed in the north of the country. “My wife and I came to Israel four years ago for her brother’s wedding in Jerusalem,” Hoffman recalled. “We spent a weekend in Safed, and in the car my wife said ‘OK, we have to make aliyah.’ ”

For Hoffman, the Institute is as much about the students as it is about the tourists.  

“People are going to come from all over the world to work with our talent here,” he said. He also believes the Institute will have a ripple effect in spurring job creation in a variety of sectors and throughout the region, from science and technology to food service and hospitality. “The ability to bring jobs to the north through [cuisine]  is amazing,” he said. “Our goal is for people to come and stay a few nights [and] enjoy the region.”

Hoffman also is excited about the physical building. “The views are amazing. Beautiful landscape. The restaurant used to be the cheder ochel (dining hall), with an amazing 180-degree view, like Tuscany.” 

Hoffman hopes the Institute will be ready for the first class of students and the opening of the restaurant in early 2022, but they’re still waiting on some permits for the extensive renovations. But Hoffman takes it all in his stride. 

“In order to become comfortable,” he said, “you have to first become uncomfortable.”

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