Chefs Assaf Granit and Uri Navon Bring Israeli Cuisine Center Stage in L.A.

Published on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 by Webmaster

Chefs Assaf Granit and Uri Navon Bring Israeli Cuisine Center Stage in L.A.
On their first trip to Los Angeles, Israeli chefs Assaf Granit and Uri Navon wasted no time in getting to know some of this town's culinary habits. They shopped at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, partnered with Suzanne Tracht for a dinner tribute to Israeli Independence at Jar, and cooked at Nobu Malibu with Gregorio Stephenson.

"Our favorite thing is to go to the market everyday and choose vegetables, supplies and meats. So when we got to the [Santa Monica] market on Wednesday, we were blown away," says Navon. "We immediately changed the menu, with both chef Suzanne and chef Gregorio. We added a lot of fresh farmers market ingredients, such as fresh kale, green almonds, and garbanzo beans.

"The market in Jerusalem is larger, but there's more variety of everything here. We have asparagus, but we don't have purple ones and white ones."

Granit, Navon, and Yossi Elad (who didn't join the trip) named their Jerusalem restaurant Machneyuda after that city's Machane Yehuda market, fitting for not only its location at the market, but the restaurant's hyper-seasonal menu that is changed daily to reflect what's in season."We really wanted to work very dynamically and very fluidly, so we can change whatever we want whenever we can change it. It makes people feel we put our souls in the food," says Navon, explaining how three to four dishes are different on a 35-item menu per day. They keep staples like a pasta dish around, swapping out the ingredients instead. It might be tomatoes and sage on one day, organic carrots and fresh garlic the next.

At its core, Israeli cuisine is a fusion of various influences, says Granit. "A lot of immigrants came from all over the place -- Europe, Morocco, Iraq, and Iran. Everybody brings his own cuisine and his own grandma's dishes; the kind of stuff that you grew up with."

"Israeli cuisine is now starting to support organic products and cook farm-to-table. We've [done] it naturally for the past five years since we've opened," says Granit. "Generally, Israeli cuisine is leaping forward. A lot of Israeli chefs are coming back from Europe or the U.S. after learning and acquiring a lot of skills."

In L.A., the two felt at home at the kitchens of Jar and Nobu Malibu. The chefs may return to L.A. soon, if tentative talks with the American Friends of the Israel Museum are any indication. "They want us to come during the summer and do a kind of food and arts in L.A.," says Granit.

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