"The idea for La Boca came to me toward the end of culinary
travels through Latin America," recalls Guy Kimchi, the owner of La Boca in the
German Colony in Jerusalem. The restaurant is the only Latin American restaurant
in Jerusalem encompassing the diverse flavors of countries in both South and
Guy began cooking whilst serving in the IDF’s Golani
Unit in Lebanon in 1997. "Though all of the ingredients were frozen, boxed or
vacuum packed, I got great feedback from the guys who encouraged me to become a
chef," says Guy. "At the end of my army service, I brought home with me a book
of recipes that I'd invented under challenging circumstances."
After the army Guy
made up his mind to train as a chef and went to Hadassah College. Following a
six-month stage at the Dan Hotel in Eilat, he worked at Rafael, a popular bistro
chef restaurant in Tel Aviv under well-known Israeli chef Rafi Cohen.
decided to go traveling with the aim of expanding his culinary horizons. Guy's
girlfriend, Ricki, who he knew from the community he grew up in, joined him for
some of his travels. He began by working in a restaurant in Madrid for three
months in order to make money to support his travels in South
Guy was intent on finding new cuisine, and traveled around
Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Argentina. He lived with a family in
Cuba where they cooked meals together. "Although I have warm memories of the
experience, I am not a fan of Cuban cooking with its emphasis on boiling and ham
as a major ingredient," shares Guy. "I enjoyed the sweetness of Brazilian food
with is tropical fruits and coconut milk, the spicy peppery Mexican dishes, and
the Spanish seafood-free paellas."
"But the best meal I have ever had was in
Bariloche in Argentina,” Guy recalls.“The restaurant, Don Alberto, used
home-grown ingredients and vegetables– even the meat was from the cows out in
the back-yard!" The owner liked Israelis, and Guy offered to cooked Middle
Eastern food like shakshuka and couscous dishes,in exchange for authentic cooking
After a few blissful months of sampling the best in Latin American
cuisine, Guy found himself in the lively neighborhood of La Boca ("mouth" in
Spanish) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the tango was born. "I liked the name
La Boca for a restaurant, which got me thinking how little Latin American
cuisine was available in Israel," says Guy. "I had a light bulb moment and
decided to open up a restaurant back home offering all the amazing tastes and
flavors I'd experienced on my travels."
"I knew that Israel already had South
American-inspired meat restaurants, but I wanted to offer a wider menu with more
exotic and colorful flavors," says Guy. However, it was important to Guy to
adapt the cuisine to the Israeli palate, and to offer food that was not too
sweet, vinegary or spicy. Although he originally thought to open the restaurant
in Tel Aviv, he began looking in Jerusalem when he realized the unique
opportunity to cater to the kosher market, many of whom had never sampled real
Latin American cuisine.
Guy opened the restaurant in 2005 on Emek Refaim
Street, on the second floor of a restored historic Templar house that previously
housed a well-known hairdressing salon. Guy chose the area for its large kosher
contingent and its chic bourgeois and Anglo-Saxon crowd. "The beginning was very
difficult," says Guy. "Working in a kitchen and being a restaurant owner are
very different things."However, after two years things started to improve
and customers started returning more and more. It was around this time that Guy
and Ricki got married.
Today the restaurant has a long list of loyal
regulars. "There are some customers who come to the restaurant every year on
Pessah, and make their reservations one year in advance – American-style," grins
Guy. Diners enjoy the choice of cuisine from several Latin American countries –
from Mexican tortilla with red tuna ceviche to a hearty Argentinian grilled
Guy works long hours both in the kitchen as well as managing the
business. Although Ricki worked in the restaurant for one month as a waitress,
she now works at Israel Bank.
"Ricki is from Spain and cooks delicious
Spanish food," says Guy. These days Guy eats left-over kiddie-friendly meals
when he comes home late at night, like cold schnitzel and pasta Napolitano. Guy
and Ricky have three children, including a four-week old baby, and live in
HarShmuel near Ramot. "We have great views and I prefer the slower pace and
energy of Jerualem to Tel Aviv, where I lived for a brief stint."
Guy was born
in Givon, a small community near Jerusalem. His family came from Spain hundreds
of years ago and first lived in the Old City before moving to Yemin Moshe. "I
grew up with authentic food, a real combination of Israeli and Spanish flavors,"
"Israel is my home; it's the best and most beautiful place
to live in the world. I also love Israeli food, which is really a mix of what
its immigrants bring with them. It's so special that one can enjoy Iranian,
Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan and other various culinary traditions in one
Guy relaxes by running in nature, taking bicycle tours, and heading to
the Dead Sea. He also enjoys traveling and makes sure to go on tasting trips to
new restaurants in New York and France in order to keep abreast with trends. "I
often travel with my family and although it can be challenging, it's also
rewarding and so much fun," says Guy, a real family man.
"What would I be
in another lifetime? I would spend more time with my kids. Or, I would be a
karate sensai," says Guy, who has his black belt in karate.
Plans for the
future include opening up a small dairy restaurant on Derech Hebron with good
coffee and home-made pastries. "I have been around so much meat and am looking
forward to something completely different," says Guy. "I also aim to keep
bettering what we offer at La Boca."
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