Nir Tsuk chef 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Chef Nir Tsuk, known for interpreting rich French cuisine with an innovative
Israeli twist, is eating breakfast at one of his four eateries. Cordelia, his
flagship restaurant, offers truffled goose liver pâté and cheeses from his
brother’s boutique dairy, but the youthful, trim chef is having a simple herb
omelet, salad, white cheese and fresh bread.
“My taste in food is always
changing, but I like very light food,” he says.
Tsuk has hosted many
television cooking shows and written two cookbooks. He writes a food column for
Yediot Aharonot and is considered to be one of Israel’s most influential chefs.
He’s been selected by the Foreign Ministry to cook for visiting dignitaries and
to represent Israeli cuisine abroad.
“To represent food outside of
Israel, we should talk about our vegetables and herbs, the beautiful olive oil
and how to combine all this richness, the fruit of the land. This is where we
are the strongest,” he says as we head over to his bistro, Noa.
new establishment every few years, Tsuk, 37, fairly sparks with energy. He
greets employees entering the bistro by name and with a smile. Like his
restaurant, patisserie and bar, Noa is located on Hatzorfim, one of those narrow
paved Jaffa streets imbued with history and a Middle Eastern palm-tree
Just off the famous Jaffa flea market, the street is almost a
gastronomic compound run by Tsuk, as all his establishments stand within several
meters of each other.
Cordelia’s style is Baroque and romantic, lamplit,
candlelit and expensive. In the more affordable bistro, a blue light falls on
whitewashed stone walls and Crusader arches, the dimness relieved by a small
fish pond at the entrance and a green vine that twists overhead.
says that he designs and decorates his eateries himself.
cooking very young, before I was 13,” he says. “In my house, everything happened
in the kitchen; nobody ever sat in the living room. The kitchen is the basis of
home and family and happiness.
By 13, I found an after-school job working
in the kitchen of a coffee shop. After two weeks, I knew that cooking was my
Tsuk worked and cooked in San Francisco for a year, but he
defined his cooking style in Paris.
“I enjoyed San Francisco – the
restaurant scene there, the farmers’ markets, the respect people give to the
grower. But Paris formed me,” he says.
The opulent style of Cordelia
attests to the French influence. Tsuk also enjoys making extraordinary moments
for customers occasionally. He is known to ask what they would like to eat –
without reference to the menu – and create the dinner of their fantasies that
“I do eat in other restaurants but to hang out with friends, not
for inspiration. I get more inspiration in the markets and from nature – the
smells, the wildlife, the colors and textures,” he says.
Dishes like crab
ravioli with mascarpone sauce seem to be the result of Tsuk’s wildlife
He talks about life with food and success.
ago, I realized that it is everyone’s job to make the people around him a little
happier. I’m not trying to make big changes because it’s presumptuous and
boring. Living my life and making the people around me happy, doing an artistic
job inside my four walls is good enough for me. The results are not for me to
judge,” he says.
“Success, in the first place, is about taking
responsibility for the people who work for me and for those eating my food. The
other part is taking life easy. You can do only so much. A big part belongs to
You do the best you can, but you don’t control the
So I do my best, and then I allow the world to do what it needs
to do – wherever it takes me. This is the biggest change in my life. At the
beginning of my career, I wanted to impress people, I wanted more control of
what happened, where it happened… and then I learned to take it a little
easier,” he explains.
“I’d like people to have more respect for their
People go to the gym, they take vitamins, but then they eat
s***ty food. Eat properly, good food. You don’t need to go to extremes. People
go to the supermarket and buy a lot of s*** – why? Buy more vegetables, more
fruit, more cheese… I’d like to see people going back to home cooking,” he
Asked what obstacles he found on the road to success, Tsuk says,
“First, bureaucracy is very difficult in Israel.
It’s a daily struggle.
Second, I’m not sure I feel successful.”
What’s lacking? “Maybe peace of
mind. The problem I deal with is that I have to satisfy each person, every day,
as if it were the first day. That is the hard thing. When you come to eat in a
restaurant, you’re not just coming to eat bread.
A good experience also
depends on who you came with, the ambience, what you had before,” he
The chef says he feels he has to provide that ambience for everyone
himself, “because service in Israel isn’t professional.
There will always
be something missing.”
What advice would Tsuk give to aspiring chefs? “Be
humble. Be patient. And remember that you’re cooking for other people, not for
yourself. A chef is a sort of servant, part of the staff, working for people.
You have to adjust your menus to the taste of your clients.
should be at peace with yourself.”
There seems to be no end to Tsuk’s
entrepreneurial spirit. He plans to open a food market in Jerusalem’s First
Station in June, with wineries, a fromagerie, a butcher and fishmonger selling
upscale food to the public seven days a week.
Final words? “Eat well.
Love what you do. That’s enough for life, no?
RED MULLET AND GREEN BEANS
500 gr. red mullet fillets
500 gr. flat Italian green beans
Olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Dried chili pepper
Parboil the green beans in lightly salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and place
in ice water a few minutes. Drain again.
Heat a little olive oil in a
frying pan and fry the green beans for 1 minute. Season with salt and
Drizzle a little olive oil into a large, nonstick frying pan.
Heat the oil and place fish fillets and garlic to make one layer. Fry for about
Turn the fish over and add tomatoes and parsley.
the fish off the frying pan and place on the hot green beans. Season. Continue
frying the fish and garlic in batches until all the fish is
Season with a little chili and serve.