A feast of culinary options at Israel’s third-annual Round Tables
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A feast of culinary options at Israel’s third-annual Round Tables

Three-week restaurant event starts October 29, hosting high-ranked international chefs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The collection of Israeli chefs and Round Table culinary festival organizers at a press conference launching the three-week chef event (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
The collection of Israeli chefs and Round Table culinary festival organizers at a press conference launching the three-week chef event (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Reserve your tables now, because the third year of Round Tables, the three-week culinary festival hosted in Tel Aviv (and one Jerusalem) restaurants, is fast approaching.

This third edition of the American Express-sponsored event will host 60 chefs from leading restaurants in 11 countries, including six restaurants with 1 Michelin star and two restaurants with 2 Michelin stars, the prized ranking awarded by the prestigious Michelin guidebooks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for flying the chefs to Israel.

The festival begins October 29 and runs through November 17, with three price-ranked meals of NIS 269 ($75), NIS 299 ($84) and NIS 399 ($112) meals available for purchase on the Round Tables website.

“It’s not a chef competition,” said Yair Bekier, a co-founder of Round Tables. “We don’t sell the best meal in the city. It’s about a culinary experience, that 99% of the public wouldn’t otherwise experience and that’s the idea. We give them the opportunity to experience different foods, and most people love that.”

The idea is to bring Israeli and international chefs together, sharing ideas and ingredients, making meals together for some 14,000 eager diners, added Bekier. Some 40 chef apprenticeships abroad have been created for Israeli chefs as a result of Round Tables and its cooperative influence.

Some of the highlighted pairings include restaurant Nithan Thai’s chef Shahaf Shabtay with 7132 Silber, a 2 Michelin star restaurant in the Swiss Alps that is focused on farm-to-table dining; and Peru’s Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, ranked eighth in the world for his Nikkei cuisine at the Peruvian Maido, who will be hosted at Tel Aviv’s Ya Pan.

There’s also the 1 Michelin-starred Kadeau from Denmark, recently listed as one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which will be paired with chef Yonatan Roshfeld at Jonathan Food Club.

Roshfeld, one of the senior chefs involved in the festival, commented that the purpose of Round Tables is not to expose Israeli chefs to their European counterparts, but rather, the opposite.

“We’re not less talented or invested and I’m participating to show that,” said Roshfeld, who also dismissed the importance of Michelin stars in a restaurant’s ranking. “Round Tables is to expose these chefs to Israel, and to show how we make food.”

“We want them to be our ambassadors,” he said, “to tell everyone that Tel Aviv has a kitchen.”

The only kosher Round Tables option is at HaYarkon 99 at the Dan Hotel, where chef Oved Alpiya will host the 1 Michelin-starred Spanish farm-to-table chef Andreu Genestra.

There’s also one Jerusalem Round Table restaurant this year, as the city’s Mona is paired with chef Simon Hulstone from The Elephant, one of the participating farm-to-table restaurants in Devon, England.

Ten of the Round Tables restaurants feature farm-to-table food, in which fresh, farm-grown produce is featured prominently on the menu.

When asked how the farm-to-table chefs would handle cooking in Israeli kitchens, where the produce could vary widely from what is available in their own kitchens, Roshfeld commented, “you can’t be a good cook if you can’t take your pans into another place.”

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