Why are 5 American chefs traveling to Israel?
Famed chef Michael Solomonov says a trip overseas is the best way to understand the cuisine of his birthplace.
For anyone who enjoys Mediterranean cuisine, one glance at the menu of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia is likely to result in cruel pangs of craving. Chef and co-owner Michael Solomonov has crafted a mouth-watering array of Israeli dishes big and small that not only impress in taste, but also in design. As a result, Zahav has gained national renown in the U.S. and has led to a swell of interest in authentic food from Israel and its neighbors.
While appreciation for Israeli cuisine is something Solomonov is happy to see growing, he's not content to let only his food do the talking. In addition to a recently funded Kickstarter for a documentary called "The Search for Israeli Cuisine," as well as an upcoming cookbook, the Israel-born chef has also recently started organizing small culinary tours of Israel.
"We went in October 2013 with a group of chefs, and it had such a huge impact on them," Solomonov tells From The Grapevine. "It's the easiest way to help people understand Israel."
Based on the success of that first culinary field trip, Solomonov is now planning a sequel with five additional chefs from the United States. According to Iris Hami, executive vice president of Gil Travel – which is helping organize the trip – the five participants are all "chefs that [Solomonov] knows and respects and wants them to come and love Israel as he does."
"He, like many people, feels that Israel has great cuisine [and] wants to bring as many as he can to share in this experience," she added.
Some highlights from this year's tour include the bountiful food markets of Jaffa, a visit to farms and wineries in the shadow of the Carmel Mountains, a boat tour along the Sea of Galilee, and tastings of culinary hotspots from famed eateries Azura, Machne Yuda, the Opera Restaurant and many more.
At the end of the nine-day trip, Solomonov says he hopes the experience gives his fellow chefs a greater appreciation of Israeli culture and maybe even a new perspective. "This is a firsthand experience that invites participants to draw their own conclusions," he says. "Food describes humanity."
For those interested in taking their own culinary expedition to Israel, there are currently a handful of businesses offering everything from hands-on cooking experiences to restaurant visits and wine tours.
Interested in something a little closer to home? The fine team here at From The Grapevine has already compiled a complete Mediterranean menu to help you get started. Hungry for a little guidance? Our resident chefs Miriam Kresh and Sarah F. Berkowitz have hundreds of tasty recipes in our Israeli kitchen.
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