How do you picture the chef and owner of two successful Jerusalem restaurants? One way might be a 33-year-old Jerusalem-born mother of three who exudes a lot of self-confidence, creativity and talent.
That's a good way to describe Dafna Baruch, owner and chef of Pituyim ("Temptations"). One restaurant is just off Emek Refaim in the German Colony and the other is above the Gap store in the Mamilla Mall, both locations having a special meaning to her.
Baruch was born in Jerusalem to native Jerusalemites. Her father's parents came from Turkey; her mother's parents were many-generation Jerusalemites on one side, and her grandmother was from Lebanon.
Baruch grew up in Gilo but went to school in the German Colony.
"Until 15, I had never stepped into the kitchen!" she exclaims. When she took a cooking course at school, she says, "for the first time I saw I had a talent for it," but her mother didn't want her in the kitchen.
In the army, Baruch taught martial arts because she had a black belt in Taekwondo; then she did her post-army travels to the US. When she returned to Israel in 1994, she knew she wanted to do two things: cook and learn archeology. The timing was wrong to start university, so she began cooking for a French restaurant, Dalia Reno Bistro, off Rehov Agrippas. She also enrolled in the culinary course at Hadassah College.
She married Meir, a personal trainer. By the time she completed her Hadassah course, she was a sous chef at Dalia.
Baruch decided that a good chef has to know how to cook and to bake, "and that was what I wanted to do," she says, so she went to London for six months to study patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu.
When she returned, a friend of her husband's told her he had a dream to open a restaurant but only with her. In 2000, at 23 years of age and pregnant, she opened a very small place called Pituyim on Rehov Melitz in the German Colony.
Why that name? "When I thought of a name, I thought it was exactly what I do. Everyone will go and say you can tempt me today," since it was more a bakery than a restaurant.
After about three years, Baruch decided to move to a bigger place, on a side street of the German Colony "so people who come will come to me, not the street," she says. She chose a place "with history," in a building 70 or 80 years old, which she remembered when she was six years old.
The restaurant, at Rehov Rahel Imenu 5, seats about 20 inside at wooden tables and chairs with red checkered tablecloths; the garden with wicker chairs seats about 40.
Recently she opened a branch above the Gap in the Mamilla Mall. "I really like this place. It is one of the most beautiful malls in Israel. Also, my father was born in Mamilla; it was the border then. When he was two years old or younger, he walked across the border and the Jordanian soldiers were pointing their guns at him and my grandmother tried to lure him back with candy."
The dairy kosher mehadrin restaurant features such specialties as portobello burgers; a crisp, round polenta with mushroom and pesto and white wine; lasagne; and fish, such as salmon with red wine and almonds. There is a fixed menu, but there are some changes every season.
The showcase features the 25 different desserts that Baruch makes herself, including boxed sweets to buy and take home, bearing the restaurant's rolling pin logo. Baruch has three children, ages nine, five and two, and she is not done with Pituyim.
"Now I have a project to open Temptations as a kosher bakery in Los Angeles. It is very interesting," she says. "I think it could work wonderfully."
Pituyim is open Sunday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. (for breakfast) until 1 a.m. (through dinner and late-night snacks). Friday hours are 8 a.m. to one and a half hours before Shabbat. The restaurant opens Saturday evening a half hour after Shabbat.
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