Several of the well-heeled guests crowding into the official residence of Patrick Maisonnave, France’s ambassador to Israel, were grumbling on Sunday evening when wait staff refused to serve them the Brie and Camembert, heaped on to a patio table, until the other dessert tables were prepared.
Israeli diners still have plenty to learn about French cuisine – cheese courses notwithstanding – but the 19 celebrated French chefs on hand at Maisonnave’s Jaffa home, all of whom had been flown in from France to launch the second annual So French So Tasty week, seemed ready for the challenge.
So French So Tasty, a joint initiative of the French Embassy, the French Institute in Israel and UBIFRANCE, the French agency for export promotion, was created as a result of warming ties and increased tourism between France and Israel. From Feb. 10-12, some of France’s most esteemed culinary artists, including the head chef at the official residence of the French president, will join the kitchens of some of Israel’s most popular restaurants, from Haifa to Beersheva, for a week of special menus and fusion cuisine.
Restaurants in Haifa, Beersheva, Jerusalem, Mitzpe Ramon and Tel Aviv are all participating this year, including Tel Aviv’s Hotel Montefiore, Shlila and Mul Yam; Mitzpe Ramon’s Chef Eugene; and Beersheva’s Smilansky Tapas Bar. Workshops for the public, master chef-style competitions and winery tours are also on the itinerary. Details are online in French and Hebrew, and also on the So French So Tasty Facebook page.
Mourad Haddouche, the chef du restaurant at the Michelin-starred Loiseau des Vignes in Beaune, France, will work this week at Tel Aviv’s upscale Dallal and told the assembled crowd that he looked forward to working with Israeli ingredients like etrogs. Parisian chef Yoni Saada, who is Jewish, has visited Israel several times before and will work this week at the Jerusalem hot spot Adom, said cooking in various world cuisines in the best exercise a chef can partake in. “If you open your mind to the world, your kitchen is always pure,” he told The Times of Israel.
Maisonnave, as well as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau, all hailed So French So Tasty as a definitive – and delicious – testament to the increasingly friendly relations between France and Israel. Just before wrapping up Sunday’s press conference and allowing the hungry crowds to jostle for French hors d’oeuvres, wine and pastries, Landau said, “During French week, every Israeli minister wishes he was the minister the tourism.”