Written by Yvonne Zacharias, CNN Jerusalem, Israel
The Haifa Room is hosting a unique showcase of Middle Eastern cooking and artistry to encourage a cultural dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
Featured chefs include chefs such as Shay Knight, Paul Sanders, Dayan Zakary, Ali Khafagi, Youssef Mansur and Amin Smoussi , in addition to artists from the UK and Arab countries.
The idea is to make the annual festival a fixture of the culinary calendar in both countries.
This year’s course was held over three days between August 20 and 22 in the fishing town of Haifa, deep in the Galilee.
The three kitchens, which were divided between an arts center, a book store and a hotel and restaurant, showcased the diverse talents of their chefs.
‘The essence of the food is the authenticity and love of the food’
The Haifa Room is jointly organized by the Old City Settlement Culture Centre, the Haifa Committee for Cultural Heritage, the Tel Aviv Tourism Council and City of Haifa.
The festival was inspired by the nearby, more famous event: the Haifa Wine Festival.
Participants had a chance to sample food prepared with ingredients from the Galilee as well as the tri-border region.
And the picturesque scenery added an extra element of entertainment.
While the course was held in Haifa’s “golden quarter,” some chefs traveled to the Palestinian side of the region and participated in “the red village,” which are less developed areas around the border cities.
In addition to the food dishes, the chefs were also in tune with the location, and some even performed their unique culinary skills in claypots, as well as the longstanding Arab tradition of glazed wood.
Michael Elad (above) of Benared partnered with Leivans Israeli brand to produce heirloom olive oil from the international standard for olive oil, while Haifa-based chef Adam Sporn made a local Macaroons — an innovative approach to a classic Palestinian dessert.
Food on canvas
Guests at the Haifa Room were offered wine tastings, tapas, dessert wines and “food on canvas,” which was also a promotional event.
Food on canvas is the creation of Italian chef Fabio Signorini.
Signorini invites chefs from the Arab world to create their dishes with Moroccan silverware, making it a unique style that most chefs use.
“We are working together in the hospitality industry,” Signorini says. “We are people of the same profession and I am aware that we can create together.”
It has been five years since the Haifa Room began, and soon this event may take over a month to book.
The Haifa Room chefs hope that the workshop and festival will help lay the groundwork for dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian chefs and food lovers.