Beyond recipe ingredients: Bake, set, match

Matchmaking guru stirs up chemistry.

LETTING THE ingredients shine: Natalie Braier does a cooking demo (photo credit: RAN LEVI/ILTV)
LETTING THE ingredients shine: Natalie Braier does a cooking demo
(photo credit: RAN LEVI/ILTV)
‘Where I come from, women are women and they don’t need to prove it,” says the Scottish character Rory MacNeil in Arthur Cohn’s recently released film, The Etruscan Smile (based on the novel by José Luis Sampedro). For the multi-talented Natalie Braier – a tax consultant, professional chef, and matchmaker – this down-to-earth philosophy applies to many areas of life.
Although she was born in London, Braier draws much of her inspiration from her Continental roots. Her mother, grandmother and aunts were raised in Antwerp in Belgium and embodied what she calls “true style” that has permeated her own life, be it in work, fashion or food. In an age of over- indulgence, the subtlety of understated elegance has become priceless, she says.
“Let the ingredients shine. Let the person shine. Don’t over-complicate anything that masks their beauty.”
Braier arrived in Israel to sample the latest in the culinary world following a trip to Tuscany, where she enjoyed Italian cuisine at the kosher Cantina Guiliano winery and restaurant. In Israel, she has drawn further inspiration from the country’s diverse and authentic kosher offerings – such as Tel Aviv’s Whisky Bar Museum, Moroccan Ewa Safi in Neve Tzedek and Jerusalem’s original bakery Kadosh. A visit highlight was being invited by ILTV to entertain viewers with a cooking demo. Alongside her food creations of anchovy-flavored salad and peach perfect crumble, she talked about dating challenges and her work as a matchmaker.
“It’s inspiring to see how this country has become a trailblazer in showcasing their talents, not just through the creation of wonderful food, but also through aesthetically beautiful restaurants. It’s not just about the meal but also the overall experience.”
Braier has been connected with food for as long as she remembers. At just two years old, she was standing on a stool helping her mother bake biscuits.At eight, she was creating her very own novelty cakes and when she was 16, she helped cater her brother’s bar mitzvah together with the chefs from her catering college.
Braier qualified as a chef, fresh out of high school at just 16. Her fascination with food led her to analyze its role in society when she embarked on a degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics a few years later.
Back in 1993, her university thesis proved that families who eat together stay together. Observant families, she concluded then, have more chance of being stable and cohesive, with Shabbat and festival meals being integral parts of their lives. This was before the age of tablets and iphones, which, she says, have further damaged family bonds. In contrast, observant families today maintain healthier family bonds, since such devices are off-limits on Sabbath and festivals, she says.
Following her degree, Braier pursued a career as a tax consultant, enjoying culinary pursuits merely as a hobby, while also becoming an informal matchmaker.
She believes food and matchmaking are inextricably linked, since relationships often blossom against the backdrop of a good meal.
Unsurprisingly, her matchmaking success has always centered around food. She either meets candidates around a Friday night table or specifically hosts a dinner party filled with handpicked guests who are entirely unaware of her social engineering experiments.
“The relaxation and conversation promoted by good food within a fun setting lends itself to organic friendships and more.”
Critical of many of the dating apps, Braier believes they can actually hinder success.
“People don’t invest in good old-fashioned dating like they used to. Swipe, swipe means there’s always going to be someone more attractive out there. As a result, there is much less incentive to focus and give someone a real chance. It has become so superficial.”
On the other hand, social media has been a game changer for foodies, notes Braier. Taking advantage of this trend she is setting out to combine her food passion with matchmaking.
“It’s not for nothing that they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” she jokes.
Later in the year, she hopes to travel to LA for Food Network’s Hanukkah Cooking Challenge. Other plans for the future include producing a TV show where she performs the food demo assisted by say, two single men and two single women.
 “The idea is to see whether there is any chemistry beyond the recipe’s ingredients. A joint task bonds people together, which is a nice change from the heavily anticipated pressure of a date. A match would be the icing on the cake!”
Tuscan experience:
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