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Classic Jerusalem cuisine earns Assaf Granit a Michelin star

‘I can’t get over it,’ chef says, setting eyes on second star, after his Paris establishment Shabour is granted legendary gastronomic award

Assaf Granit, one of the three owners and founders of Jerusalem's famed Machneyuda restaurant. Granit will participate in Open Restaurants Jerusalem, held November 22-24, 2016 (Courtesy Machneyuda)
Assaf Granit (Courtesy Machneyuda)

Israeli chef Assaf Granit’s Shabour restaurant in Paris received its first Michelin star on Monday as the guide announced its annual pick of the top eateries in France.

The guide praised Shabour for featuring Granit’s “creative cuisine” as well as his “trademark features” of an “unbridled atmosphere, rough and ready decoration.”

Granit, who is co-owner of a number of restaurants including Jerusalem’s famous Machneyuda and London’s award-winning The Palomar, told the Ynet news site that he was overwhelmed by the announcement.

“This isn’t normal. I can’t get over it. It’s great,” Granit said. “For me the biggest thing here is that four Israeli partners from Jerusalem decided to open a restaurant in Paris and did it with their money and their vision.”

Assaf Granit’s Shabour in Paris (Courtesy)

Granit also said that the Michelin awards had adapted over the years and remained relevant, even as dining expectations changed.

“The guide wisely kept up to date with the world. The guide realized that excellent meals do not have to be in lavish palaces with tablecloths and waiters. Impeccable experiences can come in all sorts of places,” Granit said.

Granit told Channel 13 that Chabour’s menu is based on classic Israel and specifically Jerusalemite cuisine — including tehina, baba ghanoush and horseradish — that is then “given star quality.”

He said the ongoing closure of businesses, which has affected his restaurants, created a “weird and unclear” atmosphere, but that he was optimistic about a swift recovery when the pandemic is over.

And he marked his next goal: “If I just focus on today — we got one star today? The next focus will be at the second star.”

The Michelin Guide has been criticized for its decision to hold the awards while establishments remain closed in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industry bible’s boss, Gwendal Poullennec, defended inspections that led to 57 new stars overall, even though French restaurants remain shuttered after lockdowns imposed last spring and again since October.

Gwendal Poullennec, head of Le Guide Michelin, poses outside the Eiffel Tower with the 2021 edition, Jan. 18, 2021 in Paris (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

“It’s an important decision to support the industry, despite the current situation and perhaps even because of the situation,” Poullennec said.

“All the establishments that have kept their star this year or won one are restaurants that fully deserve it,” he said.

Michelin has drawn fire for bestowing its verdicts as chefs rack up losses while adapting their menus for takeout or deliveries — and food fans have little chance of booking tables anytime soon, with or without face masks.

The rival Best 50 list, based in Britain, canceled its 2020 ranking last year, while France’s La Liste said this month that instead of rankings it would honor innovative chefs who have persevered amid the pandemic.

Michelin France said that it squeezed its anonymous reviews into a reduced six-month period, from May to October, when restrictions on restaurants were eased, and it called for help from overseas for its secretive inspections, bringing in twice as many foreign inspectors as usual.

Michelin called off the lavish gala ceremony that was to be held in Cognac, southwest France — the first time outside Paris — and instead announced the 2021 winners in a YouTube broadcast from the Eiffel Tower.

The Michelin guide has 28 issues covering 25 countries, though awards in other countries are handed out at different dates.

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