On Saturday night, Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, an Israeli Arab from Baka al-Gharbiya in the Galilee, won the fourth season Master Chef Israel. The 33-year-old mother of three holds a PhD in microbiology, and impressed the judges during the course of the show with her modern twists on traditional Arabic cuisine.
Nof often equated her experiments with new food combinations on the show to her work in her laboratory. It was this scientific precision, along with her passion for showcasing Arabic cuisine, which made her such a successful contestant throughout the show. Her food was consistently among the winning dishes each week, and even the dishes which were less successful still demonstrated her culinary skills and versatility.
As an individual, she was always true to herself and was clearly popular among the other contestants.
It is not easy to judge how good the contestants really are when we can just see the food on our screens and hear the feedback from the judges, but I was one of the lucky members of the public who were able to taste Nof’s food in person – when the Master Chef food truck came to Talpiot last Friday. Nof was serving her winning dish of grouper kubeh from a previous episode, which was incredibly tasty and well-presented. She was also an engaging and friendly host, and shared with us that she already had a rabbi (previous contestant Josh Steele) praying for her to win.
Since her original audition, Nof has often talked about her wish to open an Arab-Jewish cooking school, something which can now become a reality with the help of her prize money as the Master Chef winner. She also expressed a desire to open a gourmet restaurant focused on Arabic cuisine aimed at both the Arab and Israeli communities, and on a personal level, I hope that I will get a chance to eat her food again in the near future.