Tempest in a Soup Pot Raises Internet Traffic

The firing of restaurateur to the stars Rafi Adar from the 'Master Chef' TV show had the Internet abuzz with talk of his hot temper and unruliness. His backers say it's malarkey, but that hasn't stopped tongues from wagging.

Michal Palti
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Michal Palti

It has been about a week since restaurateur Rafi Adar, owner of Tel Aviv mainstay Pronto, was dismissed from his role as a member of the jury on the "Master Chef" reality show on Channel 2 (Keshet ). Some of the details of the affair are undisputable: On Friday a week ago Adar was called into the offices of the program's production company, Gil Hafakot, and was asked not to show up for any more shoots. He was invited to return for the final cook-off show but Adar was hurt and refused.

Rafi Adar standing outside his restaurant Pronto in 2007. Credit: Archive: Daniel Tchetchik

Adar's raucous behavior on the set and things he said to two women on the production staff were given as the reasons for his sacking. Among the offensive phrases: "Come here, let me kiss you on the lips" - a sentence he has reportedly often spoken in the past, to both women and men.

Adar's dismissal sparked a storm on the Internet. Walla! almost immediately had a report about a "serious incident" that had occurred during the production. On NRG they added that "a female production worker is involved in the incident."

The ambiguous accounts aroused a great deal of curiosity - especially in light of the popularity of the show, which is broadcast twice a week during prime time and enjoys viewer ratings of 30 percent.

"A situation developed in which it was unpleasant on the set," a source tied to the show's production said. "There are rules of behavior and Adar did not abide by them."

According to another source, "At Keshet they were afraid of getting complaints because of Adar's behavior on the set, which in their opinion was inappropriate, and they didn't want to back it."

About two days after Adar's was fired, a letter to the production crew was sent on his behalf from the law firm of Erdinast, Ben Nathan and Co. According to the letter, Adar was hurt by the dismissal, the accusations against him are baseless, his actions do not fit any criteria of sexual harassment and he was not given an opportunity to reply to the accusations.

Gil Hafakot, which is represented by attorney Orna Lin, said the company conformed to all the conditions of the contract with Adar.

'Not a harasser'

The way Adar, who preferred not to be interviewed for this report, behaved is perhaps not a model of good taste in certain people's opinion - but it is typical of him. Some people will say Adar is an example of a figure from an old world of values, who is unaware that the rules have changed.

"It's strange and annoying to depict him as a harasser," said a person close to Adar. "During all his years at Pronto there have not been any incidents approaching this. He works with a lot of men and women who have been loyal to him for years - why harassment all of a sudden?"

A client of the restaurant, a businessman, seconds these observations: "If it wasn't pleasant for people at Pronto, they wouldn't be going there regularly. If there was vulgarity there, raucousness, noise or inappropriate talk - they would look for some other place. The attempt to depict Adar as someone who yells and screams on the set isn't nice, to say the least."

In August, TheMarker published a review by Oren Majar, who reported that Adar ejected him from the restaurant because he wanted to sub out several dishes. There were 284 online responses published to the critique. In many of them it was claimed that Adar is a hot-tempered individual who often treats diners inappropriately.

Adar, 65, went to Italy to study medicine in the mid-1960s, in order to follow in his father's footsteps, but he transferred to film studies. In 1972 he returned to Israel, married actress Yehudit Sola and had two sons who are now working in television: Daniel is a director (the series "Gavoah and Greenbaum," which may be adapted for the American market ) and Roy, an actor and musician who participated in that series.

Adar opened Pronto in 1989, after having directed a number of movies, among them "Gloves." Friends say he has extensive knowledge in literature and film, as well as a Rolodex full of connections. For example, in the Pronto recipe book, published this year, there is a recipe provided by the well-known Italian author Erri De Luca.

Adar is backed by a very powerful group of friends and diners. The restaurant has a clientele of regulars, who have become friends of Adar and his wife. On the list of diners are Haaretz journalist Yoel Marcus, former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, media consultant and businessman Arnon Perlman, ad exec Sefi Shaked, Bank Leumi CEO Galia Maor, economist Jacob Frankel and more.

The Adars, as a couple, have another circle of friends, among them musicians Arik Einstein, Shalom Hanoch, Avi Balili, Amir Lev, Aviv Gefen, Yehudit Ravitz, Maor Cohen and Dana Berger (who worked as a waitress at the restaurant ).

Cellist Karni Postel says she got a job at Pronto without any prior experience simply because Adar was impressed by the fact that she is a musician. The same applies to Adam Horovitz and singer Arik Berman, who worked there as bartenders.

Moving on

Five years ago Adar was joined by business partner Ofer Zamir, 35, a former member of the rock groups Magefa and Creme Brulee, which were active in the 1990s. A year and a half ago the restaurant celebrated its 20th anniversary with a series of appearances by leading singers at the Reading 3 club in Tel Aviv, among them Adar himself.

Shalom Hanoch was also slated to perform but he canceled due to illness. Incidentally, at the restaurant there is an antipasti dish served named after Hanoch.

"Twenty years ago this was a particularly awful dish, and I didn't want it to be named after me," Hanoch once said. "Since then the food has improved."

The restaurant will reopen soon at 1 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, in the up and coming area near Neveh Tzedek.

There are differences of opinion as to the reason for the relocation: Adar says he wants to expand the restaurant and enlarge the kitchen. Others say the reason for the move is Adar's stormy temperament, which led him into a dispute with the proprietors.

Adar was also supposed to have opened an eatery in the covered port market, facing the sea, but in the end abandoned the plan. According to the developers, Adar wanted to open a restaurant whereas they wanted a cafe with a limited menu and the negotiations ran aground.

The developer of the market, Michal Ansky, who is also a member of the jury on "Master Chef," says there is no connection between that and Adar's dismissal from the show.



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