In my opinion a perfect summer meal is light, cool and varied, and beckons us to enjoy the wonderful fruit and vegetables that summer has to offer. The chef Avner Laskin prepared us such a meal. And seeing that location determines the atmosphere – we sat down to eat next to the pool. Between bites and splashing our legs in the water, he told me about his culinary journey.
I discovered the kitchen at the age of ten when my mother, who managed an x-ray institute in Nahariya, began to work a full day. Suddenly she was not at home to prepare lunch, and she left me food in the fridge that I could heat up, but very soon I told her that I prefer to cook rather than heat up her meals, and that she could leave me to fry the schnitzels by myself. In this way I discovered a creative world in the kitchen that filled me with enjoyment. A few months after this I received as a present Ruth Sirkis’ book “the Chinese world”, which made me aware of the fact that food is a much more expansive world than the one I knew, and I cooked the recipes from start to finish and since then I have not left the kitchen. Over the years I learned cooking and baking in Paris, I cooked baked, and wrote, and established and managed restaurants, (Bicks in the Marina and De Luca in Rothschild), I travelled a lot and worked in many different countries in the world, but I always felt most at home in Mediterranean countries that reminded me of my childhood flavors – olive oil, lemon, tomatoes, olives, hummus and most importantly the seasoning which in my opinion comes from the soul. Because food is first and foremost memory.
After in the last decade I wrote and published over 20 baking and cook books for the world and local markets, and I developed thousands of recipes and hundreds of menus, today I am looking for food from the past, such that feeling is the cause that dictates the tastes. After the long and circuitous road that I experienced in the field of food, I understood that what I liked and missed the most was to stand in the kitchen and “open a table” with all good things – to host family, friends and neighbors. To cook food from the love of people surrounding me, and with the wonderful raw materials that we have.
My belief is that man needs to research and perfect continuously the answer to three questions – why, how and what. These are the questions I asked myself throughout my career:
Why – because I want to touch the person opposite me and excite the diner.
How – with the best materials and with the most correct preparation for them. To prepare the portions with authenticity and immediacy, and to present at the perfect time for cooking and preparation, so that all the elements will be combined in perfect timing.
What – local meals, seasonal and not processed.
I cook so that the food will be tasty to the diner I cook for. I do not cook from the place of survival like my parents’ generation, but from the desire and strong need that the food and cooking will be and enjoyable experience for every participant. The raw materials are like a palette of colors for me as the artist. As the years progress, I focus more on the exactness in doing this, and mainly standing by the approach that says that everything I prepare has to meet the diner at the most perfect point of time of the portion.
My activity is to dine people and cause them pleasure in dining. I am a bit addicted to feedback like an artist that appears on stage each time anew. They come to me for the courses I give in culinary academy of Bolthaup, for meals that I cook at home as part of the initiative of Eatwith, and I also reach the diners, to cook ordered meals or prepare catering for events.
For me the way of life is Mediterranean.
This is the circle of friends with which to open a table and share happily and simply. Mediterranean food is full of colors with fragrance and a lot of feeling. It is direct and genuine, and to cook this food as should be, two elements alone are required – qualitative raw materials and spirit. In Israel we cook one of the most interesting kitchens in the world. Tastes are combined that have been found in the country for thousands of years, together with those that were brought here by Jews from all corners of the earth and enriched the local kitchen. This variety, together with the congestion in such a small country, behoove creativity and competition amongst many talents that want to stand out and succeed – and the local kitchen wins. These are the tastes and recipes that Avner prepared for us:
I recommend you knowing Avner and have the priviledge of eating one of the wonderful meals he has cooked, a sensual experience is promised. In our site you will find information about culinary trips that he organized in Italy. I have not as yet had the privilege, but I hope it will be soon.
A big thank you to Yifat Golan who photographed this wonderful day.
The interview and recipes are from the chapter on summer in my book “Mediterranean Living.”