A hometown cook

"It’s easy to cook like everyone else, but the most truthful way is to make your cooking express you and show your personal taste in food."

Chef Daniel Rahamime gets chopping (photo credit: AVI NISHNIVER)
Chef Daniel Rahamime gets chopping
(photo credit: AVI NISHNIVER)
Strolling through the market in my hometown of Petah Tikva, I spotted about a dozen shoppers crowding around one brightly lit stand. A young man buttoned into a chef’s jacket was giving a cooking demonstration, expertly chopping vegetables and tossing them high in a wok.
TV cameras were recording the event.
The crowd, mostly grandmotherly women, was relaxed and jovial, trading tips with the cook and nodding with judicious approval as they tasted the hot snacks he dished up. I thought that if the chef could impress those seasoned home cooks, he must be good.
In this way, Metro discovered an upand- coming chef in the Petah Tikva market.
His name is Daniel Rahamime, and he gives cooking workshops every two weeks in the shuk. Rahamime’s workshops are sponsored by the Petah Tikva Municipality.
“The municipality is investing in a huge project to develop the shuk,” says Rahamime. “They’ve already bought several spots where they intend to install new eateries and shops.”
It seems that the hitherto almost unknown Petah Tikva market is on its way to gentrification, like Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem. Will it change the shuk’s old-fashioned character? Only time will tell, but it seems unlikely. The shuk is the beating heart of Petah Tikva, where people of all ethnic streams and classes go for the best, freshest and least expensive produce.
Rahamime, 25, is a Petah Tikva homeboy, born and raised in the town. A semi-professional soccer player, he suffered a serious injury that laid him flat for six months at age 18.
“I tore the muscles of my abdomen,” he recounts, somberly recalling those painful days. “I couldn’t move for half a year.”
Out of boredom, he began watching TV cooking shows.
“My mother is an inspired cook, too,” he says, “and I found myself following her around the kitchen. There really wasn’t anything else I could do.”
Watching and learning from his mother as he recovered over the next two years, he gradually realized that his path in life was cooking.
“I went on to study at the Tadmor cooking school in Herzliya,” he continues.
“There I learned advanced techniques: how to fillet a fish, how to cut meat. I went on to audition for The Chef Games TV show and got to the finalist level. Then I went to work at various restaurants.”
Rahamime’s mentor is renowned chef Meir Adoni, with whom he still cooks when he gets the chance.
The young chef became the main chef of a chain of cafes and ran a restaurant in Jaffa. He is wisely never content with what he already knows: “I’m always hungry to learn new techniques.” He went to France to study and work in kitchens there. To learn the most about meat, he lived in South America for a while.
Returning to his shuk workshops, he says, “We have a fantastic shuk in Petah Tikva, and nobody knows about it. All the ingredients I work with, I buy in our shuk. I want to show home cooks that they don’t need special or exotic ingredients to cook dishes that garner compliments. You can make delicious, interesting food from the simplest ingredients that you see every day here or from common household staples. My workshops teach appetizers, street food, main courses and more. I show how to cook with white wine, which I also buy in stores around the shuk.”
Intrigued, I ask Rahamime what he would make out of a can of chickpeas, thinking that he might consider such a low-end product beneath his notice. But his eyes light up, and he launches into a lecture about the relative qualities of canned chickpeas.
“They make excellent hummus,” he affirms.
“There’s no need to buy hummus when you can make it at home.”
He advises to choose the smaller kind of the two offered in the markets, and casually offered a recipe. “Drain the water from the can and cook the chickpeas again in water to cover, with one teaspoon of baking soda. Cook for half an hour, until they fall apart. Drain again and blend with ¼ cup lemon juice and ½ jar of tehina. Add salt to taste, and there you have wonderful hummus, made with almost no trouble.”
Easy and delicious, a basic recipe to dress up with olive oil and herbs of choice or to keep plain.
What did the chef have for lunch today? “I love to take an hour off and go to my mother’s,” he confesses. “I’m surrounded by the buzz of haute cuisine all day long, and sometimes it’s a relief to go to Mom’s house and enjoy home cooking in peace and quiet. Today I ate kebabs, rice and salad. My mother is Libyan and my father is Kurdish, so I grew up with two great ethnic cuisines in the home.”
Rahamime advises beginner cooks to “go with your truth. Believe in what you do. Go to sleep at night knowing that you’ve spent the day doing the most you could do. It’s easy to cook like everyone else, but the most truthful way is to make your cooking express you and show your personal taste in food.”
Reflecting the Israeli passion for local ethnic foods, Rahamime offers arayis, “the dish from the Arab kitchen that’s recently taken Israel by storm.”
It’s lamb kebabs stuffed into a pita and grilled, served with a piquant chopped tomato dressing and tehina. 
Individuals or groups can order a private workshop with Rahamime or order cooked meals. He can be reached at 054-655-7383, danielrahamime@wall.com or on Facebook.