How did you get involved with this visit to Israel?
Alan Franco [the upcoming President of the NOLA Jewish Federation] got me involved. We met through my restaurant and when he suggested this trip, it seemed like it would be a great experience. I have never really had too much exposure to Israel or Israeli cuisine and I am learning from scratch a lot of the issues related to the country and to the Jewish people. When Alan told me about this trip, I was also excited for the experience from a culinary perspective.
Did you have any image of what Israel would be like?
When I started to tell the people around me that I would be heading to Israel, a common response from the people I talked to was, (perhaps jokingly), 'will you be returning back safely?'. Although I did not have too many expectations, this question was in the back of mind. This mind-set seems very far away now that I am in Israel and those safety concerns are trumped by the beauty of the country and the people.
I am also really thankful for the chance to visit this part of the world now. I know it has changed a lot in a short time, and I am happy to visit it now before it changes too much in the future.
What do you think of Israel so far?
It is a beautiful, European style country with a middle eastern flavor. I am a bit surprised though at how expensive it is, I did not expect that. I would love to come back and hang out around the Dead Sea. Also, I love archaeology and I think I could learn a lot here.
As far as the people, I really identify with the way that people here live for the day. I am figuring this out in my life, that what is important is living to the fullest with a real joie de vivre. In New Orleans we live for the moment because who knows when the next hurricane will be; this is what I understand from Israelis that they do because they don’t know when the next war will be, so they live for the day.
And your favorite food experience in Israel?
Eating at the restaurant Abraxas North. It is really clear how in love the chef is with his tomatoes. Our whole group had an incredible experience because the chef does what we all aspire to do - take the basics of the culture and make authentic, high-quality food.
What aspect of Israeli food will you bring back to New Orleans?
The spices for sure.
What is the best part of being a chef?
That I get to be part of someone’s good experience and can make them smile.
Recipe of Choice:
Chicken Livers on ToastIngredients:1 lb. chicken livers
3 tbsp. margarine
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup green onions
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 cloves chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp. Cajun seasoning
½ tbsp. black pepperToasted white bread
Preparation:Combine wine, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, soy sauce, seasoning and garlic to create a marinade. Marinate livers in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Drain livers and reserve marinade. Saute livers and chopped green onions in 1 tbsp. margarine. Add marinade and remaining 2 tbsp. butter to the saucepan. Stir until cooked, and sauce thickens. Add chopped parsley, and serve over toast points.