With falafel and hummus, sabich and shwarma flowing down every major Israeli thoroughfare, it’s safe to say Israel knows its street foods. Perhaps it is that familiarity with curbside cuisine that is the secret sauce behind “Street Food,” an Israel-produced food travel show in English that recently sold its first season to National Geographic Asia and to Discovery Channel South America.
The show features actor Ishai Golan energetically eating his way through 12 cities in three continents. The first season included the seaside city of Haifa, while season 2 will include Ramle and possibly one other Israeli city, said Sigal Shaldag, the executive director of development at Communication Clouds, the Israel production company behind “Street Food,” which produces the show with the French travel channel Voyage.
Golan, a well-known actor who performs onstage as well as in films and television shows, plays a recurring character in “Prisoners of War,” the Israeli show about three POWs that is the basis for the award-winning “Homeland.”
Shaldag said the show, while not exclusively about Israel, helps spread the word about Israel’s fun side.
“People around the world are watching a show about food from around the world, but we always include a few episodes from Israel,” said Shaldag. “I don’t love the word ‘hasbara‘ [Israel's public-relations efforts], but it really is good hasbara for Israel.”
The company also produces “Market Values,” about food markets worldwide; the series included Jerusalem and Acre in several episodes. That show is so successful, said Shaldag, that the owner of Basher Fromagerie in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market told her that Russian oligarchs have come to Israel just to buy cheese at his shop after seeing the show.
“It has a great effect,” she said. “This is what’s great about what we do, because it’s not like the other Israeli television shows that get remade as American versions” — referring to “Homeland” and “In Treatment” — “and no one knows they’re from Israel. Our shows present Israel, introduce people to Israel and to other countries.”