Chefs Stav Naveh (L) and Shuli Wilmer at L28 Culinary Platform.
(photo credit: ILYA MELNIKOV)
Located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s bustling city center culinary scene, you could be forgiven for thinking that L28 Culinary Platform is just another elegant Israeli restaurant, packed with hungry diners every day of the week.
Named after its address on 28 Lilienblum Street, L28 is much more than that. The restaurant is a first-of-its-kind chef accelerator, providing a unique platform to young, talented Israeli chefs looking to make their way in the ruthlessly competitive restaurant industry.
The restaurant-cum-accelerator is an innovative project created by Start-Up Nation Central, an independent nonprofit aiming to build bridges for Israeli innovation. Not satisfied by just promoting Israeli entrepreneurial spirit to the world, now it wants to do the same for Israel’s burgeoning culinary scene.
One-by-one, talented Israeli chefs hungry for success are given a six-month residency at L28, complete with a skilled kitchen staff, experienced restaurant team, marketing, mentoring by top names in the Israeli culinary world and even a flourishing rooftop vegetable garden.
All that is required of the young chefs, who are given freedom to build their own menu, is to interpret Israeli cuisine in their own, innovative way. And just like the world of start-ups, the chefs hope the platform will lead to an “exit,” gaining experience and support than can propel them and the country’s culinary scene to international success.
“We’ve taken the basic ingredients of Israeli entrepreneurship, combined them with the fundamental attributes of a start-up accelerator and coded them into our culinary platform’s design,” said Amir Mizroch, director of communications at Start-Up Nation Central and L28 Culinary Platform.
“Through food we’re aiming to add new threads to the tapestry of Israel’s innovative community and bring people together all over the world.”
For six months since L28 opened in October 2018, Shuli Wilmer brought her Galilee childhood-inspired menu to Tel Aviv, combined with tastes of Italy, learned during a six year stint at London’s iconic River Cafe restaurant.
Israeli-Italian fusion dishes included “gnudi” semolina and labneh dumplings in vine leaves broth, and pici pasta with zaatar leaves. At the bottom of the menu, succinctly summing up her cooking style, she wrote: “My menu makes you homesick, and at the same time it makes you feel like you are home.”
This week, Wilmer passed the torch of culinary innovation to her successor, Stav Naveh. Born in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem and the daughter of a Moroccan mother and French father, Naveh brings a fusion of cuisines and experience from a two Michelin star New York restaurant to L28.
“I want people to feel and understand my passion on the plate, to have an experience and to fly with me,” said Naveh as she stepped into the L28 kitchen for the first time.
“One day, I dream of opening a center of higher education for food to teach culinary professionals about the physiology of taste, chemistry and agriculture.”
In the short time since L28 opened its doors to the public, the restaurant that reinvents itself completely twice a year has expanded from dinner service alone to also offering lunch and brunch.
In addition to giving Israel’s young, bold culinary entrepreneurs a platform for success, the restaurant aims to give a boost to Israel’s entire food scene abroad.
Just as Israel’s hi-tech sector breeds confidence far beyond its modest borders, L28 hopes to do the same for innovative Israeli cuisine.
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