The Hours Are Better

He leans back in his chair. Despite the pressures of the run-in period, he is calmer as the owner of a new restaurant in Ramat Gan than he was in his former job. Haim Amshalom, 28, opened Maraboo one month ago with a partner, chef Yoav Bar. He says even the most tense month in the life of a restaurateur is preferable to "40 flights a year and offices in three cities in the world. Last year, I realized that the pace was too demanding, and I was missing out on life in that race. I wanted to sleep at home and control my time. After six obsessive years, I left."

Amshalom met Bar when the latter was a chef at an Eilat hotel owned by his family. After Amshalom left his job as Comverse Africa CEO and Bar's family sold the hotel, the two met again in the home of friends and decided to open a joint business.

"I was always attracted to the restaurant field, and I see it as a very interesting and special business opportunity - there is something here from every field," Amshalom says. "I grew up in a home where we cooked a lot and in every taste, and I always loved the kitchen. The restaurant kitchen here is also open so diners can see it, because that's a nice look."

The two partners embarked on a tasting tour of restaurants around the country until they chose an empty site on the ground floor of Abba Hillel Street in Ramat Gan, where the chic eatery Chloelys is located.

"I am happy to be the new neighbor," Amshalom says. "We address different clienteles, particularly because 100,000 people work in the vicinity."

Going green

Maraboo (an African name that is a nod to Amshalom's work on the continent) joins the green trend. The wall is lined with recycling tins; oil used in frying is strained and recycled (for use in animal feed) and a large, shiny stainless steel tank employs a bacterial substance in place of detergent to wash pots and pans.

"It doesn't harm the environment. You can stick your hand inside without feeling that it's acid," boasts Bar, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu cooking school and the Culinary Institute of America.

The partners define the cooking at Maraboo as "seasonal, Israeli, with a French influence." Bar serves imaginative dishes: baby calamari with beet ravioli, pine nuts, and harissa; seared eggplant soup with green beans, coriander and Parmesan; baked musar (meagre) in zucchini cream; oxtail ravioli in red wine sauce; planked filet of bass and entrecote steak in black lentils and tomatoes.

Amshalom roams among the tables, practicing the arts of polite conversation and matching names to faces, a task that every restaurant manager in a consequential business district must master. He admits he encounters more than a few former colleagues with whom he once shared airport VIP lounges "but at least I sit down at home at the end of every day and enjoy myself more."