Important names of the culinary world came together, not only to pick the winner of the Young Chef of Israel 2014, who will then represent Israel at the S.Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Venice, but also to debate on the future and upcoming challenges of Israeli cuisine: the 66 year old country is the sum of a complex history and socio-cultural reality, but ready to define and defend its own culinary identity.
Restaurant Mul Yam, in Tel Aviv, was the scene of a round-table attended by the Italian ambassador to Israel, Francesco Maria Talò, and Enrico Cerea, Italian chef of three Michelin-starred restaurant Da Vittorio; the best Israeli chefs were also invited – by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna – to discuss their experiences and talk about local gastronomy.
From left to right: Yoram Nitzan, head chef at Mul Yam restaurant; Enrico Cerea, chef at the 3 Michelin starred restaurant Da Vittorio (Bergamo, Italy); Italian ambassador in Tel Aviv Francesco Maria Talò; Shalom Kadosh, head chef at Fattal Hotel Chain; Meir Adoni, owner and chef of 3 top restaurants in Tel Aviv; Moshik Roth, owner and head chef of ‘t Brouwerskolkje restaurant in Amsterdam; Golan Israeli, head chef at Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv.
“I started cooking because I wanted to see the world: no one wanted to learn cooking”, commented Shalom Kadosh, Head Chef of Fattal Hotel Chain. With almost 40 years of culinary experience, he’s considered to be the greatest chef in Israel and "godfather" of all Israeli chefs: “The Jewish mother wants her son to be a doctor or a lawyer, but today everybody wants to cook. You can see a pilot or a high rank officer who leave their jobs and go into the kitchen. Israel is a young country, but gastronomy is going faster ahead: what is happening now is a revolution.”
“Our country is only 65 years old, and only now we are starting to look back at our roots”, adds Meir Adoni, one of the country's leading chefs, owner and chef of 3 top restaurants in Tel Aviv (Catit, Mizlala, Blue Sky): “In the past 20 years, we have learned from Europe and the rest of the world, now we’re trying to apply all these techniques to Israeli cuisine and combine them with our regional and Jewish traditions. “
“The Israeli cuisine is unique, although the professional field changed a lot”, confirms Shalom Maharovsky, owner of Mul Yam restaurant in Tel Aviv. “20 years ago it was nothing like you can see at present, we now have very good restaurants, especially at a middle-level”.
The challenge Israeli chefs are facing is double: they have to consolidate and define their own culinary identity whilst introducing it to the world as a product of their own cultural expression “Take Italian kitchen, or French kitchen – it’s all over the world”, comments Moshik Roth, the only Israeli chef who has a Michelin star. His restaurant is located in Amsterdam, but he himself visits Israel frequently and follows Israeli culinary culture: “Spanish cuisine was popular 5 years ago, now it’s Scandinavia and South America’s turn. I think that, in a few years, we might have a chance to bring Israeli cuisine to the world.”
“My restaurant is really tiny, we are trying to keep it Israeli, not European”, adds Meir Adoni. “I'm not trying to import the best materials: I prefer to cook what we find around us, here, in the sea. Even if it's only tiny sardines, we'll cook them. As a young Israeli I wanted to taste everything because we really didn't have an Israeli cuisine, but today I'm really sure of our cuisine and also proud of it. Our Jewish cuisine mixed with Arab cuisine, the way we present our plates, truly belongs to us. This is the new Israeli cuisine.”