Hands-on Israeli culinary experiences everyone will love

People will love these foods even if their cooking skills only involve using the microwave.

Hands-on Israeli  culinary experiences  everyone will love...  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hands-on Israeli culinary experiences everyone will love...
(photo credit: Courtesy)
You don’t have to be an aspiring chef or hospitality professional to appreciate all the amazing food available in Israel. There’s nothing like the experience of wiping your pita across a plate of hummus at Abu Hassan or sipping some Israeli wine atop the Mamilla Hotel’s rooftop. This magical country, however, also has a variety of little-known and more unique ways to enjoy amazing food while exploring local history and culture. From tours and tastings to cooking and baking, here’s a look at some of Israel’s stand-out, hands-on culinary experiences, all of which are as delightful for tourists as they are for locals.
Cook in Israel

Run by Tel Aviv-born clinical nutritionist Orly Ziv, Cook in Israel offers one-day culinary tours and cooking experiences for up to six people. The day starts with breakfast at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. The group then explores the market to gain an understanding of the local culture through tasting spices and foods. Using items bought at the market, they then go to Ziv’s home in Ramat Hasharon to make more than a half-dozen dishes based on local, traditional, Mediterranean recipes. Finally, along with Ziv (and at least part of her family) the group sits down to enjoy lunch with some Israeli wine. Everyone leaves with an apron and a recipe booklet to take back as a souvenir.
Cost per person (minimum two people) is NIS 690, including food and transportation. While only kosher products are used, the kitchen is not strictly kosher. Cookinisrael.com
Galil Eat

Run by Paul Nirens, who has lived in the rural Galilee region for over 30 years, Galil Eat offers dozens of program options in the area including home-hospitality meals, cooking workshops, and full-day culinary tours. There’s even an option for wild green foraging in which a group goes into fields with their host, who explains which greens are edible and/or medicinal, how to identify the different plants, what parts are eaten, and how they are picked. After picking the edible goods, the group goes back to the host’s home to prepare and then enjoy a meal together.
For those with limited time, there are quickie workshops in which you make just one dish that you then enjoy with dishes pre-prepared by your host. For those not interested in cooking at all but looking to have an experience with locals, there’s an option to have everything pre-prepared.
Prices range from $58 for a home-hospitality meal to $500 for a full-day culinary tour for two people ($130 per person after that). There are both kosher and non-kosher options. Galileat.com
Natflat Supper Club

While we can’t divulge specific names, celebrities (think your favorite boy bands growing up) often stop by Natty Seeff’s Natflat Supper Club, a popular dining experience in Tel Aviv. Suitable for 10-15 diners (it’s great for birthdays), the draw here is variety. Seeff’s long table is covered with Mediterranean breads, dips, salads, chicken, fish, roasted vegetables and of course, desserts, hot beverages and Israeli wine throughout the evening.
This is basically The Old Man and The Sea but in a beautiful Tel Aviv home. Steff can also source special items like balloons or birthday cakes and can even coordinate to bring in entertainment like musicians or magicians. Friday night gatherings can involve a traditional kiddush and challah.
NIS 300 per person if the group has 10 people or less (there is a six-person minimum), and NIS 275 per person if the group has more than 10 people (up to a maximum of 15). Price upon request for extras. Kosher style, not certified kosher. Natflat.com
Phyllis Food

She may be American, but Phyllis Glazer is one of Israel’s best-known food personalities and cookbook authors, from whom you can now learn first-hand. Once a month she hosts “Vegan Gourmet” at a cooking studio in Tel Aviv, and she regularly hosts groups of four or five participants in her home for vegetarian or vegan-themed workshops. Think “Cooking from the Bible” or “Mezze: Starters and Street Food.”
Vegan Gourmet is NIS 320 per person. Prices vary for home cooking programs. The cooking studio is kosher. Phyllisfood.com
Abraham Hostels

On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays you can stop by Abraham Hostel’s Jerusalem location at 7:30 p.m. to learn how to prepare hummus. The Tel Aviv location hosts a similar workshop a few times a week, where you can learn how to make shakshuka, and another where you can taste more than 10 different types of craft beer all made by Israeli breweries.
NIS 50 for hummus workshop, NIS 75 for shakshuka workshop, and NIS 80 for beer tasting. Not kosher. Abrahamhostels.com
Studio Arcadia by chef Ezra Kedem
Chef Ezra Kedem’s workshops begin with guests visiting his farm in Ein Kerem where he explains his home-grown crops and agricultural projects. Weather permitting, there’s also a foraging experience. At the end of the garden tour, guests go to the chef’s open kitchen for a cooking experience followed by a lunch or dinner that includes dishes prepared by the group as well as additional ones pre-prepared by the chef. Think focaccia with wild fennel, sea bass tartar, prime rib with red wine sauce and mushroom ragout.
Lunch is NIS 650 per person (minimum of 10 people) including wine and non-alcoholic beverages, or NIS 750 per person for dinner. There is a rental fee for the private space which is NIS 3,500 for dinner service. Kosher option at extra cost. Arcadiarest.com
Citrus and Salt

Citrus and Salt offers home-based cooking classes for individuals and groups. The business was founded by Aliya Fastman, who uses techniques and ingredients she has picked up during her travels. Students can expect to do things like roll falafel balls or spice a chicken in a Moroccan tehina, depending on the theme of the particular class (think classic Israeli dishes, Moroccan favorites, or Jewish holiday pastries). Almost everything is prepared from scratch, including all the doughs, sauces, and even some of the cheeses. After cooking, the group sits and eats together over a glass of wine.
Group classes start at NIS 230 per person and private classes are NIS 500 (NIS 600 for a couple). Kosher style. Fastman can go to the homes of strictly kosher students and use their ingredients.