With the recent news that Israeli chef Moshik Roth was awarded two Michelin stars for his Amsterdam restaurant, it seems a good time to talk about five notable Israeli chefs making their mark outside of Israel.
1) Moshik Roth, 41, has been living in Amsterdam with his Dutch wife — whom he met in Israel — for nearly 20 years, but now he’s the first Israeli chef to earn Michelin star status. His restaurant &Samhoud Places — named for his partner, Dutch entrepreneur Salem Samhoud — won two Michelin stars for 2012, following the two he earned for his first restaurant, ‘tBrouwerskolkie, outside of Amsterdam.
Roth grew up in Yavne, and when he moved to Amsterdam first worked as a pizza parlor manager, gradually moving into the kitchens of the city’s best restaurants. Now considered one of the Netherlands’ best chefs, his food combines a meticulous approach to traditional Dutch cuisine using molecular techniques to infuse his dishes with flavor.
2) While Roth learned many of his cooking skills abroad, Lior Hillel likes to talk about growing up in his mother’s kitchen on his moshav, where he spent much of his time helping prepare food. After the army, he attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, then made his way to New York’s renowned Jean Georges Restaurant, and is now head chef at Bacaro LA, a wine and tapas bar in California. In a recent interview on Jewish online portal JSpace, Hillel said that his cooking style is mostly fresh Israeli cooking, using local ingredients. “You go to the market and buy the stuff you’re bringing home,” he said. “It’s something you don’t see a lot here, which is why my cuisine is good and my cooking is good. Being Israeli and growing up around fresh fruits and vegetables is, I think, part of it.”
3) For Mike Solomonov, an Israel-born chef in Philadelphia with several restaurants and an “Iron Chef” televised battle under his belt, Israeli cuisine plays a large role in his food, particularly after his brother, David, a soldier, was killed by sniper fire in 2003. Months after his brother’s death, he cooked a memorial dinner at his brother’s base and realized that Israeli food was in his roots and not easily nudged away. Zahav, his flagship Philly restaurant, offers a kind of upscale grill menu, with three kinds of hummus, a meze of salads, lots of lamb, braised sweetmeats and schnitzel. His newest restaurant, Citron and Rose, will bring glatt kosher European Jewish food to the suburbs of Philadelphia.
4) Alon Shaya is another Israeli-born chef living far from home, in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is chef and co-owner of Domenica. Shaya grew up in Philadelphia, so his roots are American, yet he still retains a taste of his Israeli heritage thanks to all the hours he spent in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. At Domenica, the flavors are Italian, although Shaya tosses in some Israeli flavors here and there. At home, according to a recent piece in The Times-Picayune, he eats from the fig tree across the street as well as the tomato plants in his front yard.
5) Perhaps the best-known Israeli chef abroad right now is Yotam Ottolenghi, often known just as Ottolenghi, the Jerusalem-born owner of five restaurants in London as well as the co-author of several cookbooks with his writing partner, Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi, who was also born in Jerusalem. The two recently completed a US book tour for their latest book, “Jerusalem,” featuring the food culture of Israel’s capital city. The cookbook reinvents local flavors, often “Ottolenghifying” them, which means taking a traditional dish and reinventing it in a particularly fusion manner.