Voices of Jerusalem: Like baker, like son

Isack Kadosh talks about the legendary Jerusalem café he took over from his father.

Cafe Kadosh (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cafe Kadosh
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Café Kadosh is my father Meir’s legacy,” says Isack Kadosh, owner of the legendary Jerusalem cafe. Everything was set in motion when Meir realized he had a passion for baking at the age of 13whilst working at a bakery called Marcus near Mahane Yehuda Market. Marcus specialized in Austro-Hungarian-style pastries and still today Café Kadosh’s delectable pastries are heavily influenced by the European region’s style of baking.
In 1967, Meir realized a dream and opened up his own business in its current location in the center of town, with a bakery upstairs and a small space downstairs selling just confectionery and beverages.
“I visited the bakery regularly as a young child,” says Isack. “I loved soaking up the atmosphere, watching my father and even helping out with whatever I could manage – even if it was just cleaning a baking tray.”As Isack grew up,he voluntarily went to help out during each vacation, and worked in the bakery as a waiter, bartender and dishwasher.
Then, in the middle of his philosophy and Spanish studies at Hebrew University, Meir fell ill. Since Isack’s siblings are more high-tech oriented, it was clear that Isack would be the one to take over the business, and he quickly went about learning the bakery methodology and recipes from his father.
“When he [Meir] passed away, he took a lot of knowledge with him and I had no one to guide me,” recalls Isack. While keeping the business afloat, Isack went off to learn as much as possible from experts in Vienna and Budapest.
“I traveled all over Europe – France, Italy, Germany and Italy– and gained invaluable experience in my quest to be the best pastry chef in Jerusalem and Israel,” he explains.
In 1999, Isack went about renovating the business and expanded the premises as well as the menu to include salads, sandwiches, fresh pasta dishes, quiches and other café fare. Nervous that the increased size would alienate customers who had been coming religiously for decades, Isack worked hard at retaining the cosy family feel. The Cafe is now designed in a classic European style that makes for a decidedly traditional atmosphere.
In 2002, Isack married Keren, who at the time was working as an administrative manager in a psychometric school. After having a child, Keren struggled to find work in her field, and the couple made the decision to work together on the business. “I taught Keren the basics,” says Isack, “but she was a natural and taught herself a lot.” Keren then completed several courses locally and abroad at top culinary schools including Estella.
Nowadays Keren is responsible for the kitchen and Isack the bakery.
“We try to keep our responsibilities as separate as possible though we do interfere in each other’s work from time to time,” says Isack. “What is great is that we’re both on the same page when it comes to keeping Café Kadosh a top café and bakery in Jerusalem.”
Café Kadosh uses the best fresh ingredients and everything is made in-house, from the pasta to the bread to the pastries. The Café doesn’t serve parve confectionery and the food is made using butter and full cream.
“Taste is paramount. If you feel like a piece of cake, enjoy it,” exclaims Isack.
“One employee who was allergic to dairy even made sure to take medication in order to not miss out on our food,” he adds.
Café Kadosh does however cater to health-conscious clientele and the menu includes salads, some low fat cheeses, fine olive oils, vegetables and whole-wheat bread.
“I enjoy everything about my job – connecting with people, baking and being behind the bar,” says Isack.
“In general I am at work 12-14 hours, sometimes up to 18 hours a day, but I feel lucky that it does not feel like working to me.” Isack unwinds in the gym or in a kickboxing session.
“One of our biggest challenges is finding and training new employees to be as good as us, and we put a lot of time and effort into it,” the proud owner insists.
“Fortunately we don’t have a high staff turnover. Our employees are like family, and some have even watched me grow up.”
Isack stresses the importance of not mixing business with pleasure. “Keren and I make sure not to talk about business at home. Working together is tricky at times but we are both so committed to making the business work, and for now are successfully navigating the work-home balance.”
Isack recounts that another challenge is the lack of holiday time and how Keren and him make sure to take their kids on a holiday overseas when the business is closed over Passover. The family loves visiting South America and Europe, particularly Spain, where Isack’s family is originally from.
“I am a tenth generation Jerusalemite, and would never think of leaving,” the self-confessed Jerusalem fan proclaims.“It upsets me that so many great people leave Jerusalem to go to Tel Aviv but I want to be involved in creating a Jerusalem that is for everybody. I like everything about Jerusalem – the mild climate, the energy of the city, the architecture,” says Isack.
“I am proud that Café Kadosh is an institute in Jerusalem and that we have such a mix of people at our tables – judges, lawyers, and common people.”
“What would I be or do in another lifetime? A National Geographic photographer,” Isack explains.“I studied photography and spent three years in South America after the army taking hundreds of photos, a few of which are now displayed on the Café’s walls.”
“Our plan for the future is to open another bakery/café; similar to something we saw in Eastern Europe,” says Isack.
 “We want to continue to be the best.”Address: 6 Shlomzion Hamalka Street, JerusalemPhone: (02) 625-4210      Kosher Rabbinate (Dairy)iTravelJerusalem.com is the official website of Jerusalem offering all the latest information on things to do, places to eat and places to stay in Jerusalem.