Chinese master chefs dazzle in Tel Aviv

Israeli culinary wizards host award-winning Chinese counterparts for master classes

CHINESE MASTER CHEF David Lv at the Dan Gourmet Fine Arts Cooking Center in Tel Aviv last week. (photo credit: MEDIA LINE)
CHINESE MASTER CHEF David Lv at the Dan Gourmet Fine Arts Cooking Center in Tel Aviv last week.
(photo credit: MEDIA LINE)
A new initiative might soon transform Israel from the land of milk and honey to the land of upscale Chinese cuisine. In a bid to meet the culinary demands of a growing number of Asian tourists, the Tourism Ministry launched a series of master classes across the country aimed at teaching Israelis how to prepare authentic Chinese dishes.
Four award-winning Chinese chefs hosted workshops recently in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Tira and Tiberias, which were attended by 400 Israeli chefs from dozens of restaurants and hotels.
“The goal of the project is basically to prepare the Israeli industry to properly host Chinese tourists who are coming to Israel in larger numbers every years,” Pini Shani, senior deputy director-general of the Ministry of Tourism, explained to The Media Line. “We also hope to send chefs to China for longer, more intensive training and to ensure that when they return they can train chefs here in Israel.”
Chinese tourism to Israel has rapidly increased in recent years. According to the Tourism Ministry, in 2017 over 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel, more than double the number who traveled to the country in 2015 (47,000).
Following a week of sight-seeing and lengthy cooking lessons, the Chinese chefs gathered at the Dan Gourmet Fine Arts Cooking Center in Tel Aviv for a festive dinner last week to celebrate the success of the program.
Chinese master chef David (ZhenNing) Lv noted the enthusiasm with which Israeli students approached the challenge of learning a brand new cuisine with oft-times unfamiliar ingredients and flavor combinations. “The students in Israel are really hard-working and were open to studying Chinese and Cantonese cuisine, so it was a really good experience,” Lv told The Media Line, adding that he really enjoyed visiting the historic sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.
However, teaching Israeli cooks to adapt their Middle Eastern style to accommodate the tastes of the typical Chinese palate was not always easy. According to the chefs who participated in the program, one of the recurring issues encountered throughout their travels was that many of the spices and cooking materials found on the Mediterranean coast differ significantly from those traditionally used in Asian cuisine.
“Finding the right ingredients is a really big problem in Israel,” award-winning chef ChunHui Yang said “But we decided to modify recipes and cooking style to fix the problem.”
XiJia Yin, one of the four Chinese chefs to take part in the initiative, revealed to The Media Line that cooking materials were not an issue for him in Tira, where he held his master class.
“They prepared everything for him ahead of time,” he conveyed through a translator.
The cooking workshops are part of a broader effort to cater to wealthy Chinese tourists, who together form the largest such market in the world. In 2014, there were 116 million outbound Chinese tourists who collectively spent an estimated $120 billion across the globe.