On Wednesday the 2nd of March we organize the Storytelling Dinner. We will not just join around the table to eat together, but also to listen to stories by storytellers Lauren Maxwell, Rod Ben Zeev and Raphael Rodan. After each story, in which a Jewish dish plays a role, we will serve this dish, made by Chef Amir Camel. Because what's a better Jewish tradition than to share stories during dinner?
Hi Amir! You will be cooking for us during the Storytelling dinner, we are looking forward to it and can’t wait to see what you will make for us! Would you like to tell us a bit about your relationship to cooking?
Yes, of course! One of my favorite memories is when we used to go outdoor cooking, the stories around the camp fire that went with it - then eating a boiling mash of rice together, vegetables and meat that would burn our mouths, and warm our bellies. What also warms my heart is the cooking of my mum at home, which I still love. It makes me think of how, when I started to cook in Michelin-star(s) restaurants, my mum was anxious when cooking when I came home. She was afraid that it might not be complex and fine enough for me, but I always loved the food she made for me. But let’s go, ask me some questions!
I can see you have a lot of food related memories already. I was wondering, what is your warmest memory of a dish, and is this what you would call a typical Jewish dish?
One memory I have is from the Kneidlach (matzah balls) that my step grandmother used to make months before Pesach (Passover) every year. She was not a great cook but that used to really be her thing. She would make them 3 months in advance and freeze them – which doesn’t sound tasty but, is for me as a child, one of the best food memories I have. As always, the soup would be served first. So, after the long wait, while reading the Hagada (a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder), and being so hungry, I used to eat way too many, which resulted in me being full before the dinner even really started. But they were always worth it!
Another family recipe that really stuck, was from my mum’s side. It was a roast beef, which my grandma used to make for every family gathering. However, she would always serve it cold and it would be tasteless – so my mum eventually found a better recipe and (more importantly) a better butcher. I remember that I liked it so much in my early twenties while serving in the army that my mum used to put it for me on in a sandwich for my way back to the army and I would eat it as breakfast on the early train back to the military base, while having a hangover from the weekend and a full blown Sunday morning blouse (since the week starts on Sundays in Israël).
Want to read more about Passover and it's traditions? (in Dutch)
So, you have worked before as a chef in Michelin stars restaurants. Have you been able to bring any of the knowledge from Jewish (family) recipes into your professional career?
Growing up in Israël it is difficult to separate proper Jewish dishes and just the food I used to eat that you may call Israëli. I do bring the essence of Mediterranean cooking into the dishes I create, which is a lot about working with fresh ingredient, using a lot of vegetables, and herbs, intense flavors and colourful dishes. One advice I took from my mum about cooking: she told me once that it is very easy to make something taste good if you add cream or if you deep-fry it. However, the challenge is to make good food without cream and frying. I am still trying to follow her advice when I cook.
I am still trying to follow her (i.e. mums) advice when I cook.
What is the connection, for you, between eating food and telling stories? For instance, you mentioned sitting around a campfire and sharing food and stories. Why is this a good setting?
Imagine sitting around the campfire. It's dark outside, but you’re all warm from the fire. You had to wait a long time for the big pot of food to be ready. Afterwards, when you're full and warm, you stare at the fire in silence. That moment, is truly the best setting for good stories to emerge.
Of course, during the storytelling dinner we won’t have the fire inside, but I am sure we will be able to recreate this magical feeling of eating together and listening to amazing stories.
Amir has worked in Michelin-star restaurants for several years, but is now running a gym for personal and social development; cooking is not his main job anymore but he still loves doing.
Join us at the dinner table! For 35 euros you will get a fully catered three-course dinner with amazing storytelling performances.