A surprising recipe was concocted when the Executive Chef of Roomers Restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany, proposed visiting Israel to meet Israeli chefs – both Jewish and Arab, to learn from them the “recipe” for promoting values of tolerance and solidarity in a common field of activity. Hubertus Marquardt, 33, succeeded at a relatively young age to attain the most coveted position of head chef at Roomers Restaurant. Hubertus has another interest – methods for bringing about dialogue between peoples. This pursuit brought him to meet with members of the Chefs for Peace organization.
When I met Chef Hubertus as blogger for “Dialogue Together,” I was impressed by his inquisitive personality making it easy to quickly connect with all those he met. In this photograph he is wearing the white uniform of chefs in Israel which he purchased specifically for this gathering. In his restaurant, Hubertus usually wears a black uniform, but for the gathering of Israeli chefs he purchased a set of white clothes so as not to feel unlike his contemporaries.
We began our tour of restaurants from Jaffa Gate and went through the market of the Old City of Jerusalem. We entered tiny restaurants and I soon realized that these were “boutique” eating places, as each one specialized in one particular dish. There was “Lena” where only high quality Humus was served. The chefs discussed the best method of preparing humus – should the humus grains (chick peas) be minced or put through a sieve; should they be peeled before being minced; what kind of texture should result. What brand of Techina (sesame paste) do they use? Then began a discussion about humus versus Techina. revealing difference of tastes of Jews and Arabs.
We made our way through the alleys of the markets until we reached “Zlaratemo Sweet” where they specialize in traditional desserts such as (Mujtaba – in the picture down below). We sat down in the cramped area of the shop and enjoyed these fresh sweets which was made especially for us.
We moved on to the Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters of the Old City, passing through the stalls and shops selling incense and perfume; the meat market and gold and silver merchants. This network of alleys remains from the Byzantine era which attracted pilgrims visiting the city. At each stop one of the members of the “Chefs for Peace” organization related relevant facts about the development of the city of Jerusalem throughout the ages.
I asked the chefs Israelis Arabs and Jews, about the type of dialogues they held while working together in their kitchens and they replied that their discussion generally related to their work. They are familiar with each other’s families, spend time together. They rarely relate to politics or the prevailing situation in the State, “Our involvement with our work,” says chef Boaz Cohen, “is most creative. When we are cooking together we concentrate on our feelings toward the dish we are preparing, the aroma and we have a common language which is beyond any conflict. As we are chefs from all the communities of our population. we express our ability to create, our attempts to try new combinations and matters we have in common.” Over the years, Boaz Cohen has developed methods of healing through cooking because he believes, like the other chefs in this organization that cooking together is way to communicate.
On our way through the market, Chef Hubertus purchased certain spices with which to use as seasoning he excitedly was contemplating. The other chefs were complacent, as they often bring chefs from overseas to the markets and conduct culinary tours.
We moved from the markets to the Eucalyptus Restaurant. The chef in this restaurant is one of the founding members of the “Chefs for Peace” organization and arranges for most tours to end in his establishment. This restaurant has a reputation for it Jerusalem-Israeli- and Biblical menus. Although the owner, Chef Moshe Bason was not there to greet the visitors, his son Roni ushered all the chefs into the large kitchen and competition was soon going on between Jewish, Arab and Armenian chefs, and it was most difficult to choose among the rich variety of dishes, some of which I sampled.
In sum. I enjoyed the tastes, fragrance, drinks and above all the cordial relations that made this gathering of chefs so pleasing. Thanks to Ibrahim Abu Sur who over the years has become the culinary consultant to the organization and their regular photographer, most of whose pictures are seen here. My thanks also to Plia Kettner and Hanna Beit Halachmi, partners of this organization, who invited me to join the tour.