I had the opportunity to learn more about Chef Gilad just after completing his first "order of business" - teaching the chefs the lay of the Kosher cooking land.
Where did your motivation for this project come from?
I studied and worked abroad for many years and found that people outside of Israel tend to view our country as a war zone; they would have no concept of the reality, that we are a country with incredible assets including quality of wine, culture of food and warm people (we may be crazy, but we are very nice). The Israeli Foreign Ministry has not yet been able to change this perception, so as one of my goals I want to alter this view by connecting people with a great culinary experience in Israel.
I have no doubt that after this week the chefs will return to New Orleans with a positive perspective and energy from Israel. In a few months when the memory dies down they will look at the pictures and remember for months to come what a good experience they had with Rosh Ha'ayin residents, soldiers and their hosts. When they meet someone from Rosh Ha'ayin (or from Israel) they will hug and embrace them because that is the type of partnership that is developing. Also, with Facebook we can stay connected easily and have real friends across the globe, all because our connection and mutual love for food.
There are too many for me to list. Israel can be broken down into food regions, for example "the country of Tel Aviv", Jerusalem area, and the North. Each area has such unique and intricate tastes and flavors that it would not be fair to compare or choose one. The chefs in each region bring with them their own magic and influence from the different style of the region.
[blogger note: calling it "the country of Tel Aviv" is a play on the sense that Tel Aviv is in many ways its own country apart from the rest of Israel in its metropolitan character]
There are millions of great chefs established and sprouting in Tel Aviv, but for this I would choose Raphael. Rafi establishes a character in his food that is completely different and admirable. He has taken his Moroccan roots and family recipes and successfully connected the flavors to a local and fresh style that respects these roots without feeling old-fashioned. It is special to experience his food - he sticks to his goals and succeeds.
I am so impressed with these chefs this week that I am thinking about becoming one - what advice do you have for me?
Take an entire year to work in a restaurant and discover whether you really love it. If you decide that you love it after one year, then go study abroad and bring back to Israel your knowledge that you learned wherever you study.
What is one kitchen item that you could not live without?