Episode 16: Gil Hovav, TV host and food journalist

Often called Israel's first foodie, the eccentric chef talks about his career, his pet peeves and why family food is so important.

The guest: If you've been to Israel in the past few years, you already know Gil Hovav. That's his voice over the loudspeaker, welcoming you to Ben Gurion International Airport, and wishing you a pleasant stay. It's no surprise, considering Gil's great-grandfather is credited with reviving the modern Hebrew language, writing one of the first-ever Hebrew dictionaries. Gil Hovav is a leading culinary journalist in Israel, a restaurant critic and the author of several best-selling books. His latest book, called "Candies From Heaven," is a memoir about what food and family recipes meant to him as a boy growing up in Israel. His dark and witty essays about family are likely what David Sedaris would sound like if he was from Israel.

The gist: Often dubbed Israel's first foodie, Gil Hovav's outsized personality has made him a staple on TV. He was involved in creating, producing and presenting some of Israel's most viewed and beloved television food shows. He travels the world giving lectures about Israeli cuisine in the U.S., Europe and Asia. On today's episode, we catch up with Gil Hovav from his home in Tel Aviv, to discuss his career, why Israeli cuisine is the perfect food to photograph on Instagram, the craziest experience he's had at restaurants, and one of the biggest food fights in American history.

Further reading:

"Our Friend from Israel" is hosted by Benyamin Cohen. Our podcast theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel. Follow our podcast on Facebook for behind-the-scenes access to the show.

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Gil Hovav is a television host, food journalist, restaurant critic and book author. Gil Hovav is a television host, food journalist, restaurant critic and book author. (Photo: Courtesy)

Transcript

Benyamin: On this episode of Our Friend From Israel...

Female: We are cooking Israeli style, let me tell you. Joining us is Gil Hovav, who is pretty much Israel's celebrity chef, TV personality, author of cookbooks, and the list goes on and on and on.

Benyamin: If you've been to Israel in the past few years, you already know Gil Hovav. That's his voice over the loudspeaker, welcoming you to Ben Gurion International Airport, and wishing you a pleasant stay.

Benyamin: It's no surprise, considering Gil's great-grandfather is credited with reviving the modern Hebrew language, writing one of the first-ever Hebrew dictionaries.

Benyamin: Gil Hovav is a leading culinary journalist in Israel, a restaurant critic and the author of several best-selling books. His latest book, called Candies From Heaven, is a memoir about what food and family recipes meant to him as a boy growing up in Israel. His dark and witty essays about family are likely what David Sedaris would sound like if he was from Israel.

Benyamin: Often dubbed Israel's first foodie, Gil Hovav's outsized personality has made him a staple on TV. He was involved in creating, producing and presenting some of Israel's most viewed and beloved television food shows.

Benyamin: He travels the world giving lectures about Israeli cuisine in the US, Europe and Asia.

Gil: During her only visit to Israel in the '50s, I believe, Marilyn Monroe was served chicken soup with matzo balls for three times a day, at the end of which she asked, "Isn't there another organ of the matzo that one can eat?"

Gil: And that made me understand that Israeli food is misunderstood all around the world.

Benyamin: On today's episode, we catch up with Gil Hovav from his home in Tel Aviv, to discuss his career, why Israeli cuisine is the perfect food to photograph on Instagram, the craziest experience he's had at restaurants, and one of the biggest food fights in American history. Stay tuned.

Benyamin: Welcome to Our Friend From Israel, a podcast brought to you by fromthegrapevine.com. I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and each week we'll have a conversation with an intriguing Israeli. They'll come from all walks of life. Actors, artists, athletes, academics, archeologists and other news-makers.

Benyamin: On today's episode, we chat with chef and author, Gil Hovav.

Benyamin: Hello, everybody, and welcome to today's show. We are joined by the one and only Gil Hovav, from Tel Aviv. How are you?

Gil: I'm wonderful, how are you?

Benyamin: Great. Thank you so much for joining us today, this is a-

Gil: That's my pleasure.

Benyamin: It's a treat, a real treat. Now, you are the author of a bunch of books. The latest one is called Candies From Heaven, which, if I'm correct, is the third in a trilogy of memoirs about growing up in Israel.

Gil: Yeah. Actually, it's the second in a trilogy called Jerusalem Trilogy. It's about my childhood, and about growing up in Jerusalem of the '60s and '70s, and about all of my family, even generations before me.

Benyamin: Right. Now you have something very special and unique about your ancestors in Israel. Can you tell a bit about that?

Gil: So, I'm the great-grandson, so that's fourth generation, of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the reviver of Hebrew. So, as you may or may not know, Hebrew was totally dead for 2,000 years. It was just like Latin today. And about 100 years ago, a bit more, to revive the language so that all the pioneers and the immigrants in Israel would have a common language. And it's because of him that we are born in Hebrew in Israel, we live in Hebrew, we die in Hebrew. We're smart in Hebrew, we're stupid in Hebrew, and it's a great achievement, of course.

Benyamin: So when you say reinvented the language, is that, it's more than just saying ... obviously words like the Internet or television obviously was not in olden, ancient Hebrew, and those words had to be invented later on. But what ... I'm sure you mean more than just that, right?

Gil: Yeah. He was not the only one who revived or invented words or modern words. But he was the, his greatest achievement, except from writing the big Hebrew dictionary, which is huge, is that his family, our family, was the first family to speak Hebrew at home. Some people knew Hebrew from prayer, from books, from the Bible, but nobody spoke Hebrew. And actually, his son, my grandfather, is considered as the first Hebrew child. And he was the first child to have been brought up in Hebrew, only in Hebrew. And the greatest achievement, of course.

Benyamin: And then, going just one generation back, your parents were news announcers, radio announcers, if I-

Gil: My father was, my mom was his boss. Both at home and at work. They were both radio people, and later on my father became the head of the Israeli radio. But they were both journalists, and very involved in Israeli culture and Israeli media, et cetera, yes.

Benyamin: So going back to Candies From Heaven, what can a reader expect to discover and learn about you when they read the book.

Gil: Well, first of all, I hope, at least, that it's just a bunch of funny stories about a very, very, very disturbed family in Jerusalem of the '60s and '70s. Now, Jerusalem, that I grew up in, no longer exists. When I was growing up in Jerusalem, it was totally different. It was secluded, it was at the edge of Israel. It was on the border with Jordan, it was split.

Gil: And on the other hand, it had the biggest university in Israel, and the parliament, and the radio, and it was very cultured and very opened and very friendly, and very naïve, in a sense. And the book is all about that. It's about growing up and knowing that your family would always take care of you.

Gil: And this is something that I really cherish, and something that I really long for, and I wrote three books about it.

Benyamin: So this is the second one, and it's been recently translated into English.

Gil: Yes, it's available on Amazon, and actually, right now, it's being translated to Chinese as well.

Benyamin: Oh, wow.

Gil: Yes.

Benyamin: Do you have a big fan base in Asia?

Gil: Well, I hope I would have a big fan base in Asia. So far it's only my translator. But you know, every journey of 1,000 miles begins with one single step, so there.

Benyamin: Gotcha. So, growing up, was food ... Now you're known for your cooking and for your expertise in food? Is that something that was important to you growing up?

Gil: Actually, no. I grew up in a family that was a bit different. So, as you know, Israel was established as a socialist country, and up until I would say the late '70s, it was almost impolite to enjoy food. It was too bourgeois.

Gil: But, since my family's very capitalistic, and both my parents were career people, et cetera, we did dine out quite a lot, like twice or three times a week, which was unheard of in Israel.

Gil: And, you know, looking back at the restaurants we had in Jerusalem at the time, we went to the best restaurants. We were dining with the Prime Minister and with the biggest professors, et cetera. These restaurants were so, so basic and naïve, and food at home was the same. We lived with my ... well, my grandmother lived with us, but as it was put to us, we lived with her. And although we always had two maids, she was in charge of the kitchen. She cooked.

Gil: But she cooked very, very, very simple food. We used to call it jail food. Very simple dishes, but we loved it. Like okra and rice. Or bean soup, for the whole day. We had chicken once a week, divided to five quarters. We were five people, so we had five quarters of chicken. And that's it. And we were well-to-do. But this was Israel of the '60s, everything was very modest.

Gil: So food, on one hand, it always, it meant love and it meant fun, and it meant home, and it meant togetherness, but food was very, very, very basic. So I cannot say that I grew up on big tables or anything like that. Nor did I ever get recipes from my grandmothers, because, you know, in Sephardi families, men in the kitchen bring only two things, dirt and bad luck. So she never let me into the kitchen. And she never gave away any of her recipes, and it's all a labor of love that I've started after she passed away, when I was 20 years old, trying to recreate her flavors.

Gil: So, all my cookbooks are very simple and basic Israeli dishes. And actually, they deal with love and with nothing else.

Benyamin: Your grandmother plays an important role. You refer to her as Muma?

Gil: Yes, that's her nickname.

Benyamin: So she was a big influence on you, it seems.

Gil: She was a very special lady. Of course, she left a super-rich home, in which she grew up, with nothing, nothing at all. She gave away her dowry, she refused to get a dowry, and she became totally poor. And the only thing she had was empty hands and a full heart, and wisdom. She was a very clever, educated woman. She knew six languages. And she was from a different generation. She knew what was right and what was wrong. She did not have questions, she had answers.

Gil: And this is something that I really loved as a kid, and this is something that I really long for, as a grown-up, as a ... We all are a bit mixed up, we all are a bit wondering, we're not too sure of ourselves. And no, in that generation, they knew. They knew what was right and what was wrong. What was cultured, what was high culture and low culture, et cetera. And I really miss that. So the books are about that, too.

Benyamin: It's kind of a return to basics.

Gil: Yes.

Benyamin: You mentioned love and food are intricately related and intertwined. I was talking to another chef recently, and she was telling me that the act of cooking for others is just like the ... it's just such a good way to show your love for someone, by cooking them a meal, by bringing a meal to a neighbor's house.

Gil: Once you cook for someone, they really appreciate it. And it's a way to give a piece of your heart to a person. And I really strongly believe in it.

Benyamin: It's a piece of you, when you serve it to somebody.

Gil: Yes, yes, it really is. It shows that you didn't buy something, you didn't commission someone to do something, you just did it yourself. You touched it. It has the warmth of your oven and of your heart. It touched your hands, and it's important, especially in these times.

Benyamin: When we return, Gil talks about Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural dinner.

Gil: They didn't make enough food for everybody, and shortly thereafter it became a huge food fight, and if you read the newspapers of the era, they say that this is the biggest, biggest, biggest, shameful event that has ever occurred on the earth of the United States.

Benyamin: That story, and much more, after the break.

Benyamin: If you're enjoying this interview with celebrity chef, Gil Hovav, you'll also want to check out our recent episode with Sara Berkowitz. She's a home cook who has produced more than 400 recipes for our website.

Sara: I had an interest in psychology, since I was very little. I loved the idea of nurturing people and helping them fix their problems. And I've really discovered that food has a way of doing that. The act of eating of cooking for someone is very intimate, and I find that it creates a strong bond. It's the kind of gift, when you give someone homemade food, or when you cook a meal for someone, it really strengthens your bond. It's more than just food.

Benyamin: Check out that previous episode at ourfriendfromisrael.com. And while you're there, sign up for our Israeli Kitchen newsletter to receive Sara's recipes directly in your email.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's interview with the one, the only, Gil Hovav.

Benyamin: So you're a chef, but it also sounds like you're advocating for home cooks as well.

Gil: Actually, I'm not a chef. I never studied cookery, I never worked in a restaurant. People always call me a chef because I was a television chef. But, you know, being a television chef is always about lying, because everything is prepared backstage and you just have to toss it together and say, oh, it's so simple, it's so simple, and fake an orgasm and then you're good.

Gil: So, no, I've been working as a restaurant critic for 30 years now. I've been doing a lot of food television until I shied away from it about, I would say, seven or eight years ago, because food television is huge in Israel, and I think that there's enough of it without me as well.

Gil: But I did many series, one was called Captain Cook, and it was about the best restaurants in the world. So, for two seasons I was traveling the world, only through three Michelin-starred restaurants. And other one was called Meals That Made History, and it was about history, but it also wondered, what were people eating when history occurred. So we went to all kinds of countries, and we remade very important meals in the history of these countries.

Gil: So, for instance, in the US, we went to Washington, and the second inauguration of Lincoln, that of course was held in Washington, in what today is the Smithsonian Museum, turned into a huge food fight. You could enter the ceremony, you had to pay $10, and that gave you a ticket for one man and two women. This is very politically correct, isn't it?

Gil: And they didn't make enough food for everybody, and shortly thereafter it became a huge food fight, and if you read the newspapers of the era, they say that this is the biggest, biggest, biggest, shameful event that has ever occurred on the earth of the United States.

Gil: So we went there, and I was dancing the quadrille with a very lovely lady, and I was eating Lincoln food, et cetera. It was lovely. And we did it all over the world. And then I decided that I've had enough of food on television, and now I'm doing other stuff on television, but not food anymore.

Benyamin: What kind of stuff were you doing?

Gil: Well, I did shows about history. I did a show that was called Food For Thought. It was about interviews with Nobel Prize Laureates all over the world. And now I'm doing shows about, a very light show about tourist destinations. Just traveling the world and having fun, because someone has to do it.

Benyamin: Somebody ... you're gonna take a-

Gil: Yes, and I volunteer.

Benyamin: So, going back a second. You talked about this show you did where you visited these highly rated restaurants around the world. Is there one particular restaurant that stood out in your memory as something that's-

Gil: You know, it's really strange, because, from the, I think it was two seasons, so it must have been 24 chapters, or 26 episodes. First of all, the two restaurants that I loved the most were the only restaurants with lady chefs, and not men as chefs. Both in Italy, for some reason. And we have been to [El Boli 00:18:08], at the time [El Boli 00:18:12] was the most awarded restaurant in the world. It was in Spain, in Roses, near Barcelona. And for 10 years in a row it was chosen as the best restaurant in the world.

Gil: It belonged to two brothers, Ferran and Albert Adrià. And it was a super, super, super impressive restaurant. Unfortunately, they believed in molecular cuisine, which is really a ... it's a fad that thank God, thank goodness, is no longer in the world. But now, when we look back, it was so embarrassing.

Benyamin: That's where they put a small amount of food on a plate? Like a tiny amount of food?

Gil: There's ... a small amount of food we can live with, but this is where you had smoke coming out from the plate. And everything was very chemical, and they could do, in a procedure that lasted for two weeks, they could produce something that looked like an olive, tasted like an olive, had the color of an olive, and the texture of an olive, but it wasn't an olive. And I say, what's wrong with an olive? You can have it.

Benyamin: It almost looked like a magic trick.

Gil: It is a magic trick, but who needs it, for God's sake. So, I must say that they were lovely, the brothers, of course, but the restaurant, I didn't like it at all.

Benyamin: So, you said 30 years, you've been a restaurant critic?

Gil: Yes.

Benyamin: You must have a ... what's your biggest pet peeve that restaurants have? Something that you dislike that a lot of times they do.

Gil: Tons of stuff. I think the think that I dislike most is something that you Americans are to blame for. It's the wet towels that they keep giving you at the end of dinner. You Americans have this dreadful, dreadful gel that you keep using to rub your hands all the time, to clean yourself.

Benyamin: Purell, hand sanitizer.

Gil: Yeah. Purell. And these wet towels that you really like. What's wrong with you guys? Everybody touches the world. It's okay. You don't need to wash after you touch the world. But everybody learns from America. So, in Israel, as well, by the end of dinner, or lunch, once you're done with food, the waiter comes to you and serves you these towels.

Gil: And one day I was in a very nice restaurant in Tel Aviv, and this waiter comes to me with a towel. And I look at him and I tell him, "What do you want from me? I clean. Look at me, I've been using cutlery. I didn't touch my food. What do I need this wet towel for?" And being the Israeli that he was, "Do you really want to know where our cutlery was before you touched it?" And I said, "No, no, no, okay."

Gil: So this is something that I really remember from restaurants. But I've had any kind of adventure you can dream of in restaurants. I was having lunch in a restaurant and it caught fire. And I was thrown out from restaurants where, that the chefs didn't like the review that I gave them, although I always write politely, et cetera.

Gil: You name it, I've done everything twice already.

Benyamin: And you were in ... for a few years, you were a reporter in the US for an Israeli newspaper, is that right?

Gil: Yes, for a bunch of Israeli newspapers, I was the West Coast correspondent of the [Shokin 00:21:41] Group in Israel. This is a very long term for a very short job. I was living in San Francisco because my partner was doing his post-doc in Stanford. So we lived there for three and a half years. And I was based in San Francisco, but I was mostly covering film in Los Angeles.

Benyamin: So was there a culture shock, or was it a fish out of water, being an Israeli reporter in the United States?

Gil: No, not at all. I admired the United States, and I loved San Francisco. And it was so, it was such a learning experience. There's a lot to learn from America and from American politics and from American culture, and food was great and people were lovely. And we really loved it.

Benyamin: You'll notice that every single podcast on the planet asks you to rate and review them on iTunes. Why do they do that? Well, here's the answer.

Benyamin: The more reviews and ratings that our show gets, the higher the show winds up on the iTunes charts, which in turn helps more people discover the show. So if you're enjoying this podcast, please, head on over to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. We greatly appreciate it.

Benyamin: If you're enjoying this episode, you'll also want to check out our interview with celebrity chef, Ron Ben Israel. He told us what it was like being discovered by Martha Stewart.

Benyamin: What was it like getting a call from Martha Stewart?

Ron Ben Israel: Actually, I thought it was a joke. I thought somebody is pulling my leg. And then, when I'll arrive, they'll all be laughing at me.

Benyamin: You can find that interview, and our entire archive of episodes, at ourfriendfromisrael.com.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's episode for the conclusion of our conversation with celebrity chef, Gil Hovav.

Benyamin: I wanna talk a little bit about Israeli cuisine. You mentioned a little bit ago, when you were growing up, Israeli food and Israeli restaurants were very ... I'll use your term, you said very basic. And nowadays, I think we're seeing a renaissance in Israeli cuisine. I was recently in Be'er Sheva-

Gil: Whoa!

Benyamin: ...in Israel ... which is right, whoa! Which is, I had never been there before, it's not the usual spot. Most of the time people go to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, a lot, but Be'er Sheva, the only thing I knew about Be'er Sheva was it was in the middle of nowhere.

Benyamin: So when I got there, I was shocked and surprised to see buildings, a city, and they said, I was with a group there for a week, and they said, and they took us out to a restaurant one night. And it was this really fancy restaurant, and the food was unbelievable.

Benyamin: And I was like, wow, they took us to the one restaurant in Be'er Sheva. And then the next night they took us to another restaurant in Be'er Sheva. And every night it was better than the last night. I couldn't believe that here, Be'er Sheva is like the Cleveland, you know, it's not the top-

Gil: Hey, hey, hey, hey, be nice to Cleveland.

Benyamin: It's not the top-list city, and it has these amazing restaurants. So I'm sure you've seen, since the time you were growing up, to now, that Israeli cuisine, it's picked up with the times.

Gil: Yeah. No, no, no. Now Israel cuisine is having a moment, or even an hour or maybe a year, and it's big all over the world. And actually, the food revolution in Israel started around the '80s, and now we're on top of things. Israeli cuisine is being admired all over the world, and rightly so. It's really cool. It's really nice. It's really creative and colorful, and it's the right cuisine for the moment. It's wonderful. It's really a privilege to be a foodie in Israel in these times.

Benyamin: Yeah, even in America, we're seeing, the James Beard Award is going to Israeli restaurants and Israeli chefs.

Gil: That's to Zahav, right?

Benyamin: Yi Zahav and Solomonov. And then, Shaya, the restaurant in New Orleans, last year I think won Best New Restaurant. I read every day, there's a new one in Portland that just opened up. They're all over. There's Israeli ... You're right, it is having a moment.

Benyamin: Do you think maybe it's like a health thing, that people look at humus, and they look at it as a healthier alternative to fast food?

Gil: It's a combination of things. First of all, it's healthy, and it's based on fresh produce and on vegetables and fruits, and it's lovely.

Gil: Secondly, it's a newer, wilder, sharper version of either Californian or Mediterranean cuisine. So, after we've done these, we want to go to the next stage, and the next stage would be Eastern Mediterranean, which is Israeli. Which is, with more sunshine, bolder tastes, more creative, and I think that it really catches people. And also, without being too cynical, it's the right cuisine for the moment, because its colors fit Instagram.

Gil: So, it may, no, it may sound funny, but look at what happens. Brown food no longer exists because brown food doesn't look good when you take photos of it. So, if you think of [inaudible 00:27:27] or chicken soup or stews, et cetera, they're gone. You need either bright red or bright yellow or bright orange food. And this is Israeli food. So, it's good for Instagram. So it rocks.

Benyamin: Are there differences between, or what, I'm sure there are differences. What are the differences between Israeli food in American and Israeli food in Israel?

Gil: I would say that Israeli food in America is very good, but it's a milder version of what we have in Israel. It is inspired by all the waves of immigration that we have had during history, and in recent history. So, Russian food, Ethiopian food, French food, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Gil: So, Israeli food would be very daring and very colorful. And, just like Israelis, it doesn't have rules, or it doesn't obey any rules. So it's very in your face. And in America, you wrap it in an American, glitzy, with stars and gold and whatever. And it's very, very, very good. But it's not as rough and wonderful as it is in Israel.

Benyamin: Right. Shakshuka in America is not as good as shakshuka in Israel.

Gil: I remember ... well, I'm sure that it's different right now, but I remember, when I was living in San Francisco, I really wanted to have falafel, and they would keep falafel, after they fry it, they would keep it in the fridge. Which is appalling, you know. So un-Israeli.

Gil: So this is the difference, yes.

Benyamin: Do you have a favorite Israeli food or dish?

Gil: My favorite is a Yemenite bread called kubaneh. I love it, first of all, because I grew up on it. I'm half Yemenite. And also because it's such a wonderful, rich and luscious bread. The Yemenite proverb goes that when kubaneh is on the table, all other breads should kneel down. And rightly so. It's the most wonderful bread, so if there's only one dish that I'm going to take with me to a remote island, it's going to be kubaneh.

Benyamin: So, you've done a lot of ... you've had a very busy career. You've ... restaurant criticism, writing and TV shows. What's the next stage? Where do you hope to be in five or 10 years from now?

Gil: I really don't know. I know that I don't want to do too much television. I love writing, but usually I write only when I get a blow from the world, only when I'm depressed. Then I retire to my den, or to my cave, and I do whatever is really mine, which is writing. But I must say that in recent years I haven't been depressed, so I didn't write any books.

Gil: So, who knows? I love lecturing. I really lecture a lot, like three or four times a week in Israel, and I travel abroad, both for the Israeli foreign office, and for just universities or promoting my books, and lecture and lecture and lecture about Israel and about myself and about my books. I really enjoy it. So I'm sort of a lazy bum, and I'm happy with it. And if it stays like that, I'm not going to complain.

Benyamin: When you write, do you write in Hebrew or in English?

Gil: In Hebrew. In Hebrew. Always in Hebrew, yes.

Benyamin: So the seminars, just going back to what you were just saying, going around the world, it gives you a great opportunity to see different cultures and meet different people.

Gil: Yes, definitely, definitely. And I love it, yeah. For next week I'm going to Panama for the first time in my life, to, again, to lecture about my books. There's a book fair in Panama.

Gil: A few months ago I was in Taiwan, and the book was sold to a Chinese publisher, so this was wonderful. And yeah, it's always fun. You see different people, different cultures, and you get to eat strange food. I'm not complaining.

Benyamin: I interviewed Ron ... you know Ron Ben Israel, the baker?

Gil: No.

Benyamin: Ron Ben Israel, he's a baker, Israeli baker here in the US. He's also been on TV shows, and he said the same thing to me. When I asked, when I said, "What do you enjoy most?", and he said traveling, and giving lectures and getting to meet new people, and I guess it's getting out of the kitchen, almost. You know?

Gil: Yes, but you know, what I wanted to get out of is food television because what is a food show? It's actually about faking orgasms. Because you really, you eat on television and then you say, this is the best thing I've ever had. This is the best dish I've ever had. This is so good. Oh, I was television could give the smell, you could smell it. It's wonderful, the taste ... I've had enough of it.

Gil: So then I came up with a wonderful idea for a series. I did a series that was called Kill Gil, which was about the worst food you can have, all over the world. And we travel the world and we look for the worst dishes.

Gil: Now I'm talking about badly cooked food. I'm talking about dishes that would be considered a delicacy in their own countries, but that a tourist would find appalling. And the things I had, you really don't want to know.

Benyamin: Like insects and things like that?

Gil: Insects is for beginners, come on. Roaches are wonderful. No, I had century eggs in China, you know these eggs that you bury in the ... well, if you're poor, you bury them in the ground to let them ferment for a few years. But if you're really rich, you can bury them in a mixture of limestone and horse urine, and then give it an extra flavor. And then they turn black, and then you peel them, and it smells like death. And you eat it. It was wonderful.

Gil: In America, I had Starbucks coffee. It was really dreadful. Really bad. Really, really bad. But people drink it, so there.

Benyamin: I agree with you. I think Starbucks is way too bitter. I enjoy Aroma. I've had some good iced vanilla coffee there.

Gil: Aroma is decent, but there is a very, very big scene of, you know, single ... it's not chains, it's-

Benyamin: Uh-huh, mom and pop.

Gil: ...places that look at coffee as religion, and they do it this way and that way, and they always have beers and tattoos and this and that. You always feel guilty when you drink their coffee, but it's really good coffee. Israel is a good coffee country.

Benyamin: And finally, this is the last question. I like to ask all the people interview this at the end-

Gil: What is love?

Benyamin: Okay, so two questions. What is love? And the second question, is there question that I didn't ask you that I should've asked you?

Gil: First of all, good question. What should you have asked me? I think that the thing that I ask myself a lot is, so what's really important? Because, you know, we've been talking, and I hope that in a nice way, and I hope that I haven't been too condescending or whatever, I say that food is nice, but it's not that important. So what is important? I think that the only important thing is to do good. And that's something that I'm trying to do, even when I write about food or I do television, it's just to look around you and to say, okay, from the scope that I see, from the people that I see around me, who needs help?

Gil: And just to be aware of it, that we're so fortunate that we can give, and we do not have to take, and this should be something that we always carry with us.

Benyamin: That's a great message, and a really nice way to end this show.

Gil: Better than a schnitzel, right?

Benyamin: Much better than a schnitzel.

Benyamin: Well, Gil, thank you so much for joining us today. If people wanna find out more about you, how can they do that?

Gil: Well, I'm on Instagram, my name is gilhovavisrael, in one word. My book, Candies From Heaven, is on Amazon. And, if they come to Tel Aviv, let them just shout, "Gil Hovav, Gil Hovav" on the street, and I'm there.

Benyamin: Okay. Well, keep your ears up, and you may hear some people.

Benyamin: Thank you so much.

Gil: Wonderful.

Benyamin: Our Friend From Israel is a production of fromthegrapevine.com. Extra notes and a transcript of today's episode at ourfriendfromisrael.com.

Benyamin: Want behind-the-scenes access to the show, including sneak peeks of future episodes? Join the Our Friend From Israel Facebook group. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please, leave us a review on iTunes. It only takes a minute, and when you do, it helps others discover Our Friend From Israel.

Benyamin: You can visit our website at ourfriendfromisrael.com to find more episodes of the show. And if you have an idea for a future guest that we should interview, send me an email at bcohen@fromthegrapevine.com.

Benyamin: Our show is produced by Paul Kasko, editorial help from Jamie Bender, our head engineer is Everett Adams. Our theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel.

Benyamin: I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and until next time, we hope you have a great week.

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