Israeli-born chef strikes gold with top US prize

Michael Solomonov takes 'outstanding chef' prize; Meir Adoni opens NYC restaurant.

Michael Solomonov (right) and Steven Cook (photo credit: KENT MILLER STUDIOS)
Michael Solomonov (right) and Steven Cook
(photo credit: KENT MILLER STUDIOS)
Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov took home the award for “Outstanding Chef” at the James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday night in Chicago.
Solomonov, born in Israel and raised in the US, won for his work at Zahav in Philadelphia, which has been serving Jewish and Israeli cuisine since it opened in 2008. The chef, who was trained in French and Italian cuisine, felt a pull to return to his culinary roots after his brother, David, was killed during his IDF service in 2003.
In addition to Zahav, Solomonov co-owns several restaurants in Philadelphia, including Dizengoff, a hummus joint, and Abe Fisher, an eatery that pays homage to Jewish Diaspora cuisine. In March, Solomonov added a falafel joint, named Goldie, to his growing empire.
The James Beard Awards are considered the most prestigious accolade in the American culinary world.
Solomonov wasn’t the only Israeli connection at the awards. Zachary Engel, the chef de cuisine at Shaya restaurant in New Orleans, was named the “Rising Star Chef” of 2017. Shaya is the creation of Israeli-American chef Alon Shaya, and serves his take on modern Israeli cuisine.
Both Solomonov and Shaya were honored at last year’s awards as well. In 2016, Shaya was named Best New Restaurant and Solomonov was feted for his cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, which he wrote with Steve Cook. The book won both “Book of the Year” as well as international cookbook of the year.
While Solomonov and Shaya built their culinary empires in America, one already famous Israeli chef is now branching out into New York.
Meir Adoni, known for his successful Tel Aviv restaurants and his TV appearances, opened Nur in downtown Manhattan last week. The eatery, which focuses on Middle Eastern cuisine, has already generated positive buzz. The New York Daily News said the menu features “refined classic dishes designed for sharing – and dipping,” while The New York Times said Adoni offers an “inventive take on Middle Eastern food.”
Adoni first gained acclaim for his Tel Aviv eateries Catit and Mizlala. He then opened the kosher Lumina and Blue Sky, which are still open, while he closed Catit and Mizlala last year. Adoni has appeared as a judge on the popular TV show Games of Chefs since it premiered in 2014.
If all goes well for Adoni in his New York venture, he might just show up at the James Beard Awards next year.