Two New Reasons Why Tel Aviv Is a Vegan Culinary Capital

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The Vegan ExperienceCredit: Rafi Nosrati

Two new businesses are providing further proof that Tel Aviv is worthy of being called the vegan culinary capital: Israel’s first all-vegan cooking school, and the country’s first vegan ice cream shop.

Vegan Experience bills itself as a culinary center for vegans, offering classes as well as a store with vegan ingredients and appliances useful in vegan cooking. The center is located in an ancient Jaffa stone building, with Roman arches and colored tiled floors.

The center was launched by Yaniv Fartush Tamir last month. Fartush Tamir is the longtime owner of the cooking school Mevashlim Havaya - Cooking Experience. He describes himself as “a former major carnivore and dedicated meat lover.” However, an illness launched a a two-year process that led to him becoming first vegetarian, and then vegan, initially for reasons of health but ultimately due to ideology. 

Ultimately, he came to realize that cooking meat at Mevashlim Havaya did not jive with his newfound ideology, he says. He himself had to learn about vegan food as part of his new venture.

“It’s important to me that people understand that vegan cooking and even raw food isn’t just about health food, and it’s not about dietary alternatives. It’s not just soy schnitzels or jam-flavored avocado spread - it’s fantastic, good tasting food that can stand on its own,” he says.

His goal is that his center meets all the food needs of the vegan community. However, he hopes that it will appeal to a broader demographic. “To bring the vegan kitchen to meat eaters - that’s the challenge,” he says. 

The center offers cooking workshops and lectures by more than 40 chefs, nutritionists and other food experts. The attached shop offers goods catering to vegans and the health conscious, such as organic coconut oil, spirulina seaweed, dehydrators and Vitamix blenders, as well as cosmetics and sprouts grown hydroponically on site. 

Meanwhile, in nearby Levinsky Market, Tel Aviv's first vegan ice cream shop opened earlier this month. Gela is part of a chain with branches in the cities of Ramat Gan, Rehovot and Hod Hasharon, but this is its first entirely vegan outlet.

The ice cream parlor is a partnership between Guy Tashkent, the owner of the chain, and the Yom Tov brothers, who own some of the best-known delis in the Levinsky spice market. Tashkent says the brothers had the idea for the ice cream parlor there, and that he’s just responsible for bringing the ice cream.

Other vegan-friendly establishments have been operating in the area for several years - the vegetarian cafe Kaymak is just up the street in the market, as are Bar Kayma and Green Shack, which offers vegetarian Philly cheese steaks and sloppy joes. 

Gela offers 18 flavors of ice cream, to be rotated based on the season and the owners’ whims, saysTashkent. The parlor’s more innovative flavors include almond-milk based saffron and pistachio ice cream. During the winter, the ice cream parlor will offer “warm and nuttier flavors that suit the cold,” such as chestnut, coffee and Oreo, he said.

Vegan Experience, Ben Tzvi 78, Tel Aviv. 03-573-8883.
Gela, Levinsky 47, Tel Aviv. Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. - 11 p.m.,
Saturday from the end of Shabbat until 11 p.m. 054-202-0866.

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