Chefs Itzik Mizrahi Barak and Joseph JJ Johnson with their creation..
(photo credit: SARKA BABICKA)
NEW YORK - Although it didn’t end up winning the Taste of Waldorf competition on Tuesday night, Chef Itzik Mizrahi of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem and chef Joseph Johnson's dish was definitely a crowd-pleaser.
“I can give you my winner : Jerusalem,” one of the attendees, Nadine, told the Post. “I liked that it was approachable, not too much.”
The Taste of Waldorf competition, which was organized by the Waldorf Astoria group in partnership with James Beard Foundation, included five dishes coming from five Waldorf Astoria Hotels across the world: Beijing, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Orlando and Jerusalem.
Five semi-finalist chefs from the James Beard Foundation were dispatched to the five destinations to collaborate with the hotel’s Master Chefs and create their vision of Waldorf Astoria’s next iconic dish.
The “Jerusalem dish”, which had been given the name “The Seven Species”, was everything a Mediterranean dish made in Israel is expected to be: It consisted of a dorade fillet encrusted in smoked eggplant baguette served on a bulgur wheat salad with pomegranate seeds, pears, dates, parsley, mint and tahini. The plate was also garnished with thinly sliced and rolled up vegetables.
“The flavors are fantastic. I’ve never had dorade with the eggplant flavor in the crust. That was absolutely unbelievable,” Laura Liebman, who works for the travel company Frosch, which her family established in 1972, told the Jerusalem Post
. “The combination of ingredients: the pomegranate seeds and the bulgur and the mint, was just fantastic. It’s refreshing and it complements the fish beautifully.”
Chef Itzik Mizrahi, who arrived in New York for the contest said he was proud to present “a very Israeli dish”.
“I think Israeli cuisine is one of the leading ones in the world and the fact that I am here today proves that,” he told the Post
in Hebrew. “There are a lot of Israeli chefs who cook abroad and have restaurants abroad.”
“I think one of the next world hot spot for food is Israel,” he added.
Chef Mizrahi’s partner for the competition, Chef Joseph Johnson said that even though the experience of working with an Israeli fine-dining chef coming from a very different background than him was intense at first, the two bonded instantly at “the shuk” in Jerusalem.
“Food speaks one language so we really came together with seeing these ingredients. We thought about how can we take a dish like the Waldorf salad or the eggs Benedict and do something that is complex but at the same time simple so that every place could do it: if you’re in Dubai, if you’re in Beijing,” he explained.
When he first arrived to the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem, Chef Johnson said he didn’t know about the hotel’s kitchen kosher rules.
“So I rolled in with my knives, and the Rabbi stopped me at the door and told me I had to bring my knives back to the room,” he told the Post
. “ That was challenging for me because you can normally go into a kitchen and start cooking and tasting.”
Chef Johnson added that he believes Israeli food is becoming “a staple of the world” and is growing in popularity in the United States. “American and European chefs are now going to Israel to see the style of food that is being cooked there.”
The winner of the Taste of Waldorf contest, the Beijing dish, was selected a the panel of culinary experts at the end of the evening. It consisted of Wagyu Beef wrapped in Chinese Cabbage and served with a fried black mushroom, hoisin sauce and salted duck eggs.