Chefs in Israel: Jason Marcus of NYC's Traif and Xixa

Delicious Israel had the pleasure of talking with Jason Marcus, Chef of New York's Traif and Xixa 

Delicious Israel: What did you find to be the most interesting aspect of the culinary scene in Israel so far?

Jason Marcus: What is always interesting is the juxtaposition of tradition and modernization. You walk around everywhere and you see 5,000 years ago and 5,000 years from now. Israel is a very interesting place culturally, religiously, culinarily. It was neat to see the pastries in the Jerusalem market, like arugula-filled burekas, because you just don’t think of Israel as a place that makes great pastries.

 Jason Marcus shaving melons in preparation for a melon salad dish he is creating on his visit in Tel Aviv

Jason Marcus shaving melons in preparation for a melon salad dish he is creating on his visit in Tel Aviv

DI: What did you find to be the most unique?

JM: The halva- here it is just amazing. In the states it is like eating a brick of wood. Of course I expected the spices, but I am excited about the subtle things like the poppy baguette, the delicate use of fenugreek spice, and the Yemenite flatbread - lachuch from Irit.

DI: What was your favorite thing during our Tel Aviv tour?

JM: I really enjoyed Irit’s shakshuka and the amazing lachuch bread. It is nice to see people who are really proud of their tradition. For them it’s not about the competition, it’s about preserving tradition. I also liked dinner at Mizlala. They cooked with ingredients from here but used techniques from South East Asia, Spain, and other countries, and they incorporated those into their story. Also, the poppy seed halva ice cream from Capitolina was insane.

DI: Did you discover any new ideas that you want to bring back with you?

JM: I want to bring back this simple thing that is blowing my mind. We were at this kitchen that had a simple salad of romaine lettuce, shaved guava and local goat cheese, which I originally thought was foreign. It is a really simple thing. When you feel strongly about something and you get a new perspective on it, it opens your eyes. I never would have thought of that. I just keep coming back to this simple guava salad; it was an “ah-ha” moment. I hadn’t thought about guava as a vegetable. It is exciting to see someone with a different kind of idea. There will absolutely be shaved guava salad in a salad when I get back to my kitchen.

I also liked to see how the flavors are used in a more subtle way here. You get that from being around something longer. I want to incorporate that attitude.