Header Ads

Breaking News

The Bestia and Bavel Chefs on Feasting After the Yom Kippur Fast

Category: Food & Drink,Lifestyle

Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, of the restaurants Bestia and Bavel in Los Angeles, talk about their food, their partnership and celebrating the Jewish holidays.

Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menashe in the kitchen of Bavel.CreditCreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times

For 364 days of the year, Ori Menashe, the self-taught chef of the Los Angeles restaurants Bestia and Bavel, is obsessed with spices and the flavor they bring to food. But there is one day he lays off the seasoning: the meal before the fast of Yom Kippur.

“My dad always says that it makes fasting easier,” he said recently, and he and his family stick with that tradition. “We eat pretty lightly, because you don’t want to stuff yourself before or after a fast.”

They celebrate the High Holy Days together, and most of the time Mr. Menashe brings food from his restaurants to one of his sisters’ homes, adding spreads like tzatziki, baba ghanouj and hummus to be served along with their dishes, which may include pumpkin and tomato soup and braised short ribs with pomegranates. But for the meals before and after the fast that marks the Jewish Day of Atonement, they stick to chicken soup, roast chicken with potatoes or a simple beef stew.

For Jews, Yom Kippur is a time to pause and reflect; Mr. Menashe, 37, could use that right now. He and his wife and business partner, Genevieve Gergis, are juggling their two restaurants where Ms. Gergis, 40, is the pastry chef as well as the October release of their first cookbook, “Bestia” (Ten Speed Press, 2018), and a 4-year-old daughter, Saffron.

Bavel opened in April.CreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times
The Wagyu beef tagine at Bavel.CreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times

Bavel (pronounced Ba-VEL, the Hebrew word for “Babel”), which opened in April, serves Mr. Menashe’s Israeli and pan-Middle Eastern cooking. The restaurant has the melancholy honor of being the last reviewed by the late critic Jonathan Gold, who raved about dishes like Mr. Menashe’s hummus, colored and spiced with both red North African harissa and green Yemenite zhug (a hot sauce made with fresh herbs), and his braised Wagyu beef tagine with ethereal handmade couscous.

“You can tell he is cooking the food he wanted to cook,” said Nancy Silverton, the chef and co-owner of the Mozza restaurants in Los Angeles and beyond, and briefly a boss of Mr. Menashe’s. “His flavors are so layered, because he has a great sense of the world of spices and incorporates them into each dish in the wide range of Middle Eastern cuisines.”

Mr. Menashe was born in Southern California to Israeli parents, who between the two of them had Moroccan, Georgian and Turkish ancestry. When he was 8, his parents sold the two clothing stores they owned and moved back to Israel, where Mr. Menashe lived until he was 21. His father loved to cook and both his parents liked to travel, so he and his three siblings were exposed to good cooking at restaurants throughout Europe.

Growing up, we would travel a lot as a family, and my parents would take us to good restaurants, always paying attention to the taste and direction of the food,” he said. “We also had a lot of big family gatherings where food was the focus. Being exposed to this early expands your thought process.”

After finishing his Israeli military service in 2002, Mr. Menashe went with army friends to Argentina, where he did all the cooking. He decided to learn the profession and return to California, where he met Ms. Gergis at the now-shuttered restaurant La Terza in Los Angeles.

“We both test our dishes and then are right there to give each other immediate feedback,” Ms. Gergis said. “Bouncing ideas off each other makes dish creation a little less tedious.”CreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times

The daughter of a Coptic Christian, Egyptian-born scientist and a Catholic, Ukrainian-American social worker, Ms. Gergis was raised in a secular home. She was hostessing at La Terza when she quit her nascent and not very profitable career as a French horn player.

Mr. Menashe left La Terza for Angelini Osteria, where he became sous-chef and then chef de cuisine before leaving to open Bestia in 2012. Ms. Gergis, meanwhile, worked in interior design and furniture sales, baking only at home for pleasure.

Once during this period, Ms. Gergis brought a walnut shortbread to a memorial service. “I couldn’t get over the cake,” Ms. Silverton said. “She is off-the-charts creative. By that one small offering I could tell she was talented.”

When Bestia opened in a warehouse in the Arts District here, Mr. Menashe was the chef and Ms. Gergis the pastry chef. It was the first time the couple had worked together in the kitchen.

Bestia is located in the Arts District of Los Angeles.CreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times

“We both test our dishes and then are right there to give each other immediate feedback,” Ms. Gergis said. “Bouncing ideas off each other makes dish creation a little less tedious.”

The restaurant, which paired Mr. Menashe’s rustic Italian food with local ingredients in a casual California setting, was a success.

“Bestia gave Ori the confidence to do something from his native cuisine,” Ms. Silverton said. “When he was ready to open his own restaurant, his preference was to open Bavel, but he played it safe with Bestia’s Italian California flavors.”

The food at Bavel — which is also located in a warehouse, with an open kitchen with long strands of ivies tumbling down from the ceiling — is more personal to Mr. Menashe and more directly connected to his upbringing.

It’s what he would make for his family if he weren’t so busy at his restaurants: for Rosh Hashana, a slow-roasted duck with saffron and preserved lemon; or braised beef cheek with chiles, spices and couscous; and perhaps a grain salad, like a smoked bulgur salad with pomegranates, to break the Yom Kippur fast, even though it’s slightly spicy. (Mr. Menashe suggests cooking the bulgur before the fast, so that the salad needs only to be dressed and garnished when it is time to eat.)

The vegetables for this bulgur salad are charred to add another layer of flavor.CreditJulia Gartland for The New York Times
This prune apple cardamom cake was inspired by sticky toffee pudding.CreditJulia Gartland for The New York Times

Pomegranates, which are mentioned in Deuteronomy, are a sign of plenty throughout the High Holy Days. For dessert, Ms. Gergis makes a moist prune-and-apple cake that is flavored with cardamom and cinnamon, a biblical spice; that, too, can be made ahead.

More Recipes for Breaking the Fast

Source link

No comments