Israeli Restaurants, Chefs in U.S. Among Semifinalists for Food Oscars

From much-lauded Shaya, to surprising additions like Janjou Patisserie, Israelis are making their mark in food awards.

The restaurant Shaya in New Orleans.
Stephen Young

Many have said that Israeli food is an up-and-coming trend in the United States, and indeed, a handful of Israeli chefs and restaurants have made the list of semifinalists for the so-called Oscars of the food world.

The James Beard Foundation released its 2016 list of Restaurant and Chef awards, and it contains several well-known names as well as some lesser-known Israeli chefs.

The finalists are due to be announced next month, while the winners will be announced in May.

Israeli American chef Alon Shaya.
Marianna Massey

The contenders for best restaurant include the much-lauded Shaya in New Orleans, an Israeli restaurant that Israeli-American chef Alon Shaya opened last year. In its less than one year of operation, Shaya has already been declared restaurant of the year by several publications, while the chef himself won the James Beard Foundation’s Best chef in the South title last year.

Meanwhile, the list for best chef includes Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov, renowned for his Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia. Solomonov has been widely credited for his role in pushing Israeli food into the spotlight, and previously won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic in 2011. Most recently Solomonov released the PBS special “The Search for Israeli Cuisine,” which he hosted. 

Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas at her Janjou Patisserie in Boise, Idaho.
Screenshot

A more surprising entry on the list of semifinalists for outstanding baker is Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas, of Janjou Patisserie in Boise, Idaho. Mizrachi-Gabbitas, still relatively unknown, got her start baking at the French patisserie Mazzarine in Tel Aviv, which has since closed. Mizrachi-Gabbitas had been a manager at the Israeli offices of a Boise-based semiconductor company before making her career change. Now, she bakes croissants and cakes at a bakery whose clean lines wouldn’t be out of place in Tel Aviv, she says. 

Another relative newcomer is Ori Menashe, chef at Bestia in Los Angeles, who is among the contenders for a regional award, Best Chef in the West. Menashe was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Israel.