January 13, 2016

The rise of the Israeli plate is upon us—and the timing could not be more perfect. Qualities that the food world at large currently seeks on the plate—veggie dominance, vibrancy, and a sense of authenticity—the nation's cuisine offers in abundance. Israeli-born chefs such as Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia's Zahav, Yotam Ottolenghi of Nopi in London, and Alon Shaya of New Orleans-based Shaya are driving the trend, in their restaurants and in their books, at a time when the national cuisine is organically defining its identity—a rare and exciting evolution to witness in 2016. The nation of Israel is geographically small, historically young, and culturally eclectic, a unique combination for developing a distinct national flavor, according to Shaya. The food, encompassing dishes such as impossibly creamy hummus piled with savory toppings, succulent roasted lamb, and chargrilled vegetables accented with fresh herbs and tahini, was born of émigrés from Greece, Poland, Yemen, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ethiopia. "All of these cultures began cooking for each other on a small piece of land," Shaya says. "This intense cultural blend is what I consider Israeli food." He attributes the cuisine's recent star turn largely to a proud new wave of young Israeli chefs who believe their nation's food is worth preparing passionately and progressively. "Food should have a story to tell," Shaya says, "and there are so many rich stories to tell of the cultures in Israel."

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