Famous Israeli chef Eyal Shani opens his first kosher restaurant in New York – VINews

NEW YORK ( JTA ) – Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani arrived in New York early Monday morning, two days before the launch of Malka, his 41st restaurant and his first certified kosher restaurant outside of Israel.

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For several weeks, he considered whether to fly in for Wednesday night’s grand opening. It is the first time in my life that I have no desire to travel, to leave Israel, because of the situation in Israel, Shani told the New York Jewish Week.

Shani has been working almost non-stop since the war in Israel began on October 7. He immediately closed all 12 of his restaurants in Tel Aviv and converted their kitchens into what he calls food factories, where volunteers cooked 4,000 meals each day that were then delivered to soldiers on the front lines. Even the children were involved: some came to the restaurants and took pictures that were included in the packages for the soldiers.

But last week, Shani closed food factories and reopened several of his restaurants in Tel Aviv. We realized that we needed a place for our customers to be, to talk, to argue with each other, Shani said. We have to get our workers back. That’s why we opened in Israel.

It was an incredibly busy time for a high-profile chef. In addition to his activism, the daily pressures of running a global restaurant empire, and the incomprehensible stress of living through a brutal war, Shani has been busy earning accolades: Last week, Shani won his first Michelin star for Shmon, his seasonally focused restaurant on West 8th Street in Greenwich. Village.

When I heard that we had won a Michelin star, I was happy, but not so much, because there is no place for happiness now, said Shani, who added that he was cooking for the soldiers when the star was awarded. But when I saw my partners, my chefs go up on stage to get the star, and when I saw the flag of Israel on their jacket, I started to cry. That was my luck. And it’s my luck to open a kosher restaurant.

Shanis’ goal with the New York outpost of Malka, which opens to the public Sunday at 161 West 72nd Street on the Jewish Upper West Side, is to create a kosher restaurant that doesn’t feel like most kosher restaurants. Example: Right now, Shani is hard at work creating a signature dish for the restaurant, a Jewish ramen soup made with chicken.

Chicken soup is the best soup in the world, he said, echoing the sentiments of Jewish grandmothers everywhere. I’m going to make an amazing chicken stock ramen. I hope I can make the best ramen in New York.

Shani himself does not keep kosher, but five years ago he opened Malka in Tel Aviv, which at the time was the only kosher restaurant in his portfolio. He did it, he said, because he saw that kosher consumers craved his food but couldn’t eat it because it wasn’t kosher.

These people are part of my nation, Shani said. Part of my people. How can I make food without letting half my people eat it? That is the main reason why I opened Malka.

These days, in addition to the upcoming Malka in Manhattan, Shani operates two certified kosher restaurants in Israel. In Paris, three locations of his fast-casual pie chain Miznon use all kosher ingredients, but they are not certified kosher.

Israeli chef Eyal Shani at Malka, his kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv. The celebrity chef is opening his first kosher restaurant, also called Malka, on the Upper West Side in November 2023. (Ariel Efron)

In addition to the ramen, New York’s Malka will have the thinly pounded steak stuffed with mashed potatoes that is a signature dish at his Tel Aviv Malka, as well as his popular beet carpaccio and the Jerusalem meze plate, with falafel and Mexican chickpea hummus. . Shani hopes Malkas’ seasonal menu showcasing the flavors of Israeli cuisine will appeal to both Jews and non-Jews.

Adeena Sussman, a cookbook author and avid observer of modern Israeli cuisine, agrees that Shanis’ food is different from the food you’d find at other kosher establishments.

Eyal Shani’s restaurants are not meat-centric, Sussman said. It is interesting for the kosher crowd because it is known that kosher guests are usually very carnivores.

Maybe he’s helping to gently nudge people toward a more plant-based celebratory eating experience, she added.

Shani, who cites his vegan grandfather as a major inspiration, told New York Jewish Week that while meat and fish are certainly on the menu at Malkas, more than half of the offerings will be plant-based.

Olive oil is my main ingredient, he said. If olive oil disappeared from the world, I would quit my job and leave the profession. I wouldn’t be a chef. This is especially true in kosher establishments, where mixing milk and meat is prohibited. At his other New York restaurants, including the upscale HaSalon and Shmon, chefs use premium olive oils sourced from Spain, Italy and Israel. He plans to do it on Malka as well.

The products will also be of top quality. All the vegetables will be from upstate New York or California, he said. But the tomatoes, he added, a central feature of Shanis cuisine, will all be local. Real tomatoes can’t travel, he said.

Just as Shana was uncomfortable leaving Israel during the war, many Jewish restaurant patrons seem conflicted about having to dine and party while Israel is at war. Kosher restaurants in New York are suffering, says Elan Kornblum, publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Media Group. But despite consumers’ reluctance to enjoy life while the war with Hamas rages on, interest in Shanis Kosher Restaurant is high.

Kornblum posted Malkas’s menu on his organization’s Facebook page, and it garnered more than 50,000 views in less than three weeks. The average number of views of his posts is about 5,000, he said. If something gets 40,000-50,000 views, you know people are excited and sharing, he said. That’s big news.

Shani understands the discord some people feel about returning to life and restaurants. But he feels strongly that it is important to do so.

There is no reason for anything if we are not going to build a normal life, a peaceful life, or if we are not trying to bring people quality and happiness and hope, he said.

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