Sima Waxman
Sima Waxman at Levana Ve'Sima in Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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When Sima Waxman was 60, she cooked and baked at the Tel Aviv cafe Nona. A good friend suggested opening up a place together. "There's a time for everything," she says. Waxman is also the mother of diva Iggy Waxman, who is studying for an undergraduate degree in psychology and still sings occasionally. "For the fun of it only," says her mother. "Studying is doing her good and she is pleased with the change."

Sima Waxman is a real cook, the kind people follow if she moves from one home-style place to another. She had her daughter, whom she raised on her own, in Canada. She traveled the world, returned to Israel, started working as a waitress and then switched to cooking.

Over a decade ago she was the owner of the restaurant La Cucina in Tel Aviv. Last month she opened Levana Ve'Sima at 1 Shefer Street in the Carmel Market, together with her friend, Levana Levinstein. It's a cafeteria with a wooden bar in front that faces the market; you can order pickled vegetables and sauces for chicken and meat prepared by Waxman.

The restaurant also offers stuffed flat pita-like bread smeared with a bit of olive oil and placed on an open grill. It's filled with strips of meat and herbs, and chicken in mustard.

Every day a house special is served: fish balls in sauce, chicken and little meatballs grilled on the spot. Waxman, from a Moroccan family, learned to cook by herself from observing and experimenting. Over the past decade she has also worked with the chef Eyal Shani at private events.

"He is one of the best teachers I've had," she says. "He knows how to serve food with open hands: simply."

She did not want to be an entrepreneur or self-employed. "It just happened. I love simple cooking and believe that now, more than ever, diners in Israel and around the world are returning to familiar food," she says. "People are coming home; they want food they are familiar with and that they can take comfort in." 1