Dr Nof Atmana-Ismaeel, the Arab micro-biologist who won Israeli MasterChef in 2014, visited London as a guest of the UK Task Force on issues relating to Arab citizens of Israel and the New Israel Fund. She took part in the London Jewish food festival, Gefiltefest, where she gave a delicious shared society cooking workshop to over 150 people that were assembled in the JW3 auditorium.
During her visit she also met the New Israel Fund international board and spoke about the challenges of shared society in Israel. Dr Nof Atamna-Ismaeel has become a clear voice in promoting shared society in Israel since participating in the MasterChef competition and describing how food can bring together Arabs and Jews in Israel. By using molecular gastronomy, she combines traditional Arabic dishes with Jewish dishes and bring them up to date.
In an interview to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme she explained that she uses food to break down barriers in Israel: “When people exchange recipes, explain to each other about food they cook at home, you see immediately people are smiling and having good feeling. Taking this positive thing and giving people a chance to know you through food is something that I always wanted to do and I see it has a lot of power of making a change in my society.”
At an event with WIZO UK, Nof spoke about her career ambitions, and the decisions that led to her changing direction from micro-biologist to chef. Following the interview she led a cookery demonstration for attendees and spoke compellingly about the Jewish-Arab culinary school and restaurant she intends to found.
Dr Atmana-Ismeel explained that as an Israeli Arab she has a complex identity that is reflected in the multicultural food she creates. She presents her unique recipes as a metaphor of her perception of Israeli shared society in which she incorporate new ingredients into classic Levantine dishes. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, she said, “This is who I am and I have many identities and I embrace them all and they can all work together to create a complex but very tasty dish – just like my identity and my personality.”
Dr Nof Atamna-Ismaeel’s recipes:
- Zucchini and grape tabbouleh
- Savoury kanafeh – vegetable tart
- Stuffed grape leaves in tamarind sauce
- Shishbarak filled with spinach and arugula
Interview and feature in The Jewish Chronicle, 6 May 2016: MasterChef with a master plan