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Chef Yochanan Lambiase Not looking to imitate non-kosher flavors Photo: Tzvika Tishler
Chef Yochanan Lambiase Not looking to imitate non-kosher flavors Photo: Tzvika Tishler

Haredi chef revolutionizing kosher food

Yochanan Lambiase has a dream: To make strictly kosher food delicious. After training with some of world's kitchen legends, he's concocting his next move: Introducing molecular gastronomy to Orthodox Jews

Akiva Novick
Published: 08.19.13, 14:24 / Israel Jewish Scene

In his dream, ultra-Orthodox chef Yochanan Lambiase stands over huge pots as senior chefs from all over the world – from Jamie Oliver to Alain Ducasse – stand in front of him, astonished. "Is all this kosher?" they ask skeptically, and he smiles under his thick beard and confirms with satisfaction, "Strictly kosher!"


This culinary vision of the end of the days is now materializing in the form of an advanced workshop held in a villa near the central Israeli city of Netanya. Lambiase teaches the secrets of kosher cooking, introducing a new technique: Molecular gastronomy.


Quality Mark
Kosher meets industrial food at enzymes  / Associated Press
Centuries-old dietary code of observant Jews is adapting to modern food technology while kosher is increasingly being used as mark of quality in global food, drinks industry
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It's the Version 2.0 of cooking: Using advanced chemicals to change the shape, texture and color of food, and create completely new dishes – chicken in different colors, rice in any flavor, and more and more, as far as your imagination takes you. It's an advanced technique developed by Chef Heston Blumenthal, which is making its way into the kosher world for the very first time.


Just like the manna eaten by the people of Israel in the desert (which according to the Midrash Talmudic literature, took on any flavor imagined by those chewing it), Lambiase promises to create kosher food in any flavor you'd like.


"It's real science," he says enthusiastically. "I can make you a sorbet from alcohol in any flavor you want. Alcohol doesn’t freeze, but with the help of liquid nitrogen, which is minus 126 degrees, I freeze the alcohol and make a sorbet out of it.


"I can also make you spaghetti in any flavor in the world," he declares with a serious look on his face. "I can make gefilte fish which tastes like falafel or caviar. We'll no longer have children who don't like a specific dish, because we'll just give it the taste they like."


Descendant of 5 generations of chefs

Lambiase absorbed the fundamentals of cooking at home. He was born in the island of Capri in southern Italy to a Jewish mother and Christian father, and is the descendant of five generations of certified chefs.


He studied culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College in London with British chef Jamie Oliver, and worked in three-star Michelin restaurants for chefs like Paul Bocuse and Roger Vergé, who he calls "the kings of the world of gourmet."


One day he was introduced to kosher food and started becoming religious. Today he lives in Israel as a haredi Jew and dreams of combining the worlds in his life. He has already given cooking classes in Jerusalem, but his new project is an ambitious one, way beyond technical cooking.


"I want to turn the kosher food industry into something global which will reach the highest levels of gastronomy. I want people to come from all over the world to learn this field from us," he says.


How do you plan on giving a fight to non-kosher chefs? Producing shrimp-flavored food? Or pork?


"The truth is that there's a new field called faking – faking flavors, but I ran away from it. I'm not looking to imitate non-kosher flavors, because it will never be 100%. My aspiration is that you'll never want to taste anything else. I'm very proud to be Jewish and I don’t care about imitations."


The kosher food industry, Lambiase claims, is already taking a global leap forward. "The market is growing 28% every year, which is way beyond the amount Jews can consume. It's a global trend," he says.


"Because Halacha requires supervising the food throughout the entire process, it's considered clean and high-quality food. Kashrut is becoming a stamp of approval for quality, and I want to take it way beyond that."



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