Cinnamon and Spice

Jerusalem catering company Kinamon aims to raise the kosher bar

True food-truck fashion: The first Kinamon event was a Mexican pop-up restaurant (photo credit: AHARON HYMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
True food-truck fashion: The first Kinamon event was a Mexican pop-up restaurant
Ben David believes memorable dining is about more than ingredients or even cooking technique; it’s about the experience. When David created Kinamon Catering with partner Moshe Herc, the intention was to give customers an array of experiences that are not typically available in Jerusalem. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, which David emphasizes is the food-truck capital of the US, he and his wife made aliya five years ago with the desire to do something different and fun in Jerusalem’s culinary scene.
David began working at Ryu, the now closed Asian fusion restaurant on Emek Refaim Street. After six months, he moved to Buffalo Steakhouse with Chaim Davis, who is now the chef at Beer Bazaar. David then worked at Holy Bagel for the next four years. During that time, he served in the army for six months as a cook. While in the army, he started working on the side as a private chef.
“I started doing events for a lot of those clients, as well as for other members of my shul, Chabad of Baka,” he recalls. “About seven months ago, I quit Holy Bagel and decided to dedicate myself full-time to starting Kinamon.”
David and Herc began by cooking out of David’s small storage unit. They cooked for up to 120 people for various events. The first Kinamon event was a Mexican pop-up restaurant. In true food truck fashion, it was in the storage unit’s parking lot. “That was the first time that we did something big. We cooked for 80 diners in two days out of my storage unit,” David says. “Mexican is really lacking in Jerusalem, especially kosher. A quesadilla was the first thing I ever learned how to cook when I was six, and I’ve been cooking and loving Mexican food ever since. I used to eat it two or three times a week in America, either making it myself or eating at burrito carts. It seemed like it would be fun to do a pop-up. Here in Jerusalem you can get chili con carne and chicken, and that’s about it. For the pop-up, we ordered Mexican peppers, oregano, cumin and other spices all from Mexico. I thought it would be more fun to do something that you can’t really get here. We want to do more pop-ups in the future.”
David stresses that the major difficulty with the Mexican pop-up was not having kosher certification. Ninety percent of the emails he received beforehand were asking if they had certification. Now they do, which will ensure a much easier time for more people to join in the future restaurant.
Kinamon recently received a grant from the municipality for NIS 43,000 for new immigrants’ businesses, which began in 2016. As David puts it, the grant was a game changer. “It was actually advertised in The Jerusalem Post,” David says. “Because of the grant, we were able to build a meat side to the dairy kitchen we had been renting. We are now going to focus more on meat dishes and Shabbat meals. Now we have a real, professional kitchen. We signed the lease in December and did the majority of renovations ourselves. We finished right before Purim. Shabbat Hagadol [the Shabbat immediately before Passover] and Passover will be our biggest cooking experiences so far. We have 350 orders coming out of the kitchen. It’s not out of the storage unit anymore!”
David didn’t grow up keeping kosher. This gives the kosher chef a varied perspective on flavors. He especially loves ethnic cuisine, a panache that is evident in Kinamon’s menu. “We kept American kosher in my family,” David shares. “If we went for dim sum, we would get the chicken and shrimp dumplings and pull out the shrimp. We’d focus on the chicken. I’m very used to those Asian and other ethnic flavors. That’s the stuff I miss now that I am kosher. The shuk is cool and it’s great that they put the Wok Market there, but it’s not the same feeling as walking into a dim sum place in America. Not only is the food not the same, but the experience is not the same.”
One of Kinamon’s plans for the future is to put out stations during a catered event. They will offer an Asian soup station with meat cooked on the spot, a selection of Asian broths and noodles, as well as various additions for diners to add. David emphasizes that Kinamon wants to be different and bring the flavors that he knows so well from his childhood.
Thus far, Kinamon has been catering bar mitzvas, office parties, birthday parties and Shabbat meals. They also do barbecues on site with ethnic menus such as Asian, Mexican, Brazilian, Israeli and American. Their two most recent catering events showcase Kinamon’s versatility. “We catered a standard, dairy brit meal and also a NIS 200-per-person meat and pretzel 90th birthday party. They’re German, so we made real Bavarian style pretzels. It’s not like a mall pretzel! I want to be more authentic and tastier than everybody else. Part of that is having the flavor in mind and knowing what it is. They were really excited. They hadn’t seen pretzels like that in Israel before. It was fun to be able to bring that to them.”
Kinamon represents a bold approach in both flavor and style, as the name suggests. Hebrew for cinnamon, kinamon represents a strong spice and, according to David, is easy enough for Americans to remember and understand. They also have a signature cinnamon element to both their dairy and meat menus. Every catered dairy event has cinnamon rolls, and the cholent recipe includes cinnamon. David also adorns the buffet table with cinnamon sticks.
“We really want to be the premier Shabbat caterer for Jerusalem,” David says. “If you go to any ready-made food place, it’s the same exact food with slight differences in prices. There is really not a caterer that represents what Americans want and what good food is, in my opinion. The next step for us will be to have rotating ethnic menus, on top of our normal Shabbat menu: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican. So instead of needing to go out to get really good ethnic food, you can order it for Shabbat.”
With ever-expanding plans for the future and a brand-new kitchen to make it all happen, it would seem the possibilities are endless for Kinamon.
For more information: