"So French, So Good" Fourth Annual French Culinary Week February 7-12
28 French chefs are bringing the best of France's culinary heritage to 20 restaurants and 4 bakeries in 6 Israeli cities: Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Akko, Tiberias
On Sunday, February 7th, Israeli and international diplomats, businessmen, and media came together at the French Ambassador's residence for the most savory form of diplomacy—culinary diplomacy.
The evening marked the launch of “So French, So Good”, an annual week-long festival celebrating French culinary heritage, and connecting French and Israeli economic, cultural, and culinary interests. This year's festival was held in conjunction with the Toulouse municipality, Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal, Grey Goose vodka, Fly Card (the credit card of El-Al airlines), and JCDecaux Israel.
As part of the week-long celebration, 28 top French chefs worked with Israeli chefs at 20 restaurants and 4 bakeries all around Israel to prepare special menus highlighting the best of French cuisine. This year for the first time, French bartenders arrived to create cocktails complementing the meals.
This year's festival focused on Toulouse, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in France. The delegation of French chefs was led by Gomez Guillaume, the head chef of Élysée Palace, the residence of the French President, and including a number of chefs from Toulouse, led by Michel Sarran.
Israelis will also be able to satisfy their appetites for French cuisine at Shufersal branches, which are stocking an exclusive collection of top-quality French products as part of their "French Party" special.
Social activism played a central role in French Culinary Week as well. A number of Israeli charities were chosen as special beneficiaries. The visiting French chefs will be performing cooking workshops for charities, including the Bialik Rogozin campus for immigrant children in south Tel Aviv, children of the SOS youth villages, a women's shelter in Tira, and other charities. In addition, Israeli non-profit Leket will be collecting food all week long from the participating restaurants, and the French Embassy will be holding a special food-donation evening in conjunction with the Latet ("to Give") organization.
The opening event for French Culinary Week was held at the home of Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave. The mayors of Tel Aviv-Yafa, Jerusalem, Haifa, Acco, Be'er Sheva and Tiberias were invited to the event, and the mayor of Toulouse sent a representative to speak on his behalf. In addition to a variety of French delicacies prepared for the event, food-inspired artwork was also featured.
Ambassador Maisonnave addressed the guests, before introducing Shufersal CEO Itzik Abercohen, and representatives of Grey Goose Vodka and the Toulouse municipality to speak. Ambassador Maisonnave stressed the cultural and commercial ties between Israel and France that French Culinary Week seeks to advance. The ambassador noted that the event continues to grow from year to year (in 2014, ten chefs were flown in; last year the number rose to 19, and this year reached 28) and pledged to ensure that the event would continue to grow accordingly. For his part, Abercohen spoke about the response of consumers to the new products being stocked, and offered his own promise to do all he could to expand the supply of high-quality French food products available at Shufersal branches. After the speeches, the visiting French chefs , along with their Israeli counterparts, were called on stage to be formally recognized. Following that, the main course was served—including of course an entire room dedicated to wines and cheeses.
On Thursday, February 11, French Culinary Week will culminate with a series of workshops. The visiting French chefs will deliver cooking and baking workshops to the chosen charities, and a special workshop will be taught by Alexis St. Martin, Martial Enguehart and Ridha Khader at the Sheraton hotel, from 13:00-17:00, as part of a special tourism cooperation initiative launched by Israel and France in 2011.
Photos Silvia Golan