Southern hospitality served up in Rosh Ha'ayin

Four New Orleans chefs tour the country using their culinary skills as a way to build bridges between communities.

New Orleans chefs 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
New Orleans chefs 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Four world-renowned New Orleans chefs, including television celebrity John Besh, are having the time of their lives during a week-long visit to Israel where they have been building bridges through food.
The chefs have been traveling around Israel as part of the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 (P2K) initiative, which pairs Jewish communities and federations in the United States with "sister" communities in Israel. Touring numerous Tel Aviv restaurants, holding cooking classes for aspiring Israeli chefs and cooking at the gala opening of the Rosh Ha'ayin Boardwalk are just some of the highlights of the trip.
The chefs spent a lot of time in Rosh Ha'ayin as part of the Partnership 2000 project which successfully connects Jewish communities and federations worldwide directly with Israeli communities. They even cooked Friday night dinner for a large number of the residents of the city, which led the mayor to say that he'd never seen anything quite like it.
"The trip could not be going better," Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation on Greater New Orleans said while taking a break from coordinating the delegation. "It's not about money. The value of people is the most important factor," he continued.
Weil explained that there is no real reason why Rosh Ha'ayin was chosen for the project but a lot of parallels can be drawn between New Orleans and the central Israeli city. "Most food in the US tends to be bland, but in New Orleans the food is very tasty and spicy. This is very similar to Rosh Ha'ayin because there is a strong Yemenite influence in the city," he explained.
"The trip has been a complete success," Weil says. "The chefs have put so much effort into all the events and the people of Rosh Ha'ayin have been so welcoming. We really do like to share."
John Besh, who has been ranked by Food and Wine magazine as one of the top ten chefs in the US, could not contain his excitement about being in Israel and having the opportunity to help others while exploring his own Catholic roots. "It's been a lifelong dream for me to be here and it's surreal to see everything for the first time."
"I was told that Israelis can be crass but all I have witnessed is an outpouring of hospitality," Besh said. "In the US so many people are consumed with small talk and discussing things that don't really matter. Here in Israel everyone is excited to talk and most people have an interesting story to tell."
David Slater, the chef de cuisine at Emeril's restaurant in New Orleans, was also enthusiastic about being part of a trip that allowed him to visit his family in Netanya that he hadn't not seen since his last visit at age 14. "I love Israel and I love Israeli food," he explained. "Food is the best way to connect people and I am so happy to be able to share my skills and bring people together.
"New Orleans is very similar to Israel when it comes to food. The cuisine of each place has been influenced by so many different cultures and people who have all come to live in the same place," Slater said.