Visual Diaries From the Israeli Kitchen

Chefs Are Serving Up Delicious Fare on Instagram

By Naama Shefi

Published September 12, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
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The hashtag #food turns up 9,633,042 results on Instagram; tweak the search to hashtag #foodporn, and 4,150,563 additional results appear. Virtually sharing our lives, experiences and thoughts has become an essential part of our culture — and for those who are passionate about food, so has photographing our every bite. Food posting has become integral to the dining experience: Before we taste a new dish, we celebrate it with our iPhones and share it with out friends to consume it with their eyes on social media.

  • Omer Miller at Work


    Morning meal with a Maamul cookie and black coffee with cardamom. In the evening, sirloin, sweetbread, pumpkin and onion fondue.

    Omer Miller at Work
  • In the Kitchen


    Figs that will top beef carpaccio. Miller longing for New York: ‘I’ve been craving NYC for so long. Until I land there… I get this.’

    In the Kitchen
  • At Home


    Gently roasted beets and garlic. And, ‘Fillet mignon, may you rest in peace.’

    At Home
  • Out and About


    An elegant dish at the chic seafood restaurant Mul Yam, in Tel Aviv. And, a visit to Burekas Amikam in Tel Aviv. ‘Last thing before bed time.’

    Out and About
  • David Frenkel at Work


    Tartare topped with a small garden and quinoa popcorn. And, a vegan carpaccio made from dried watermelon, pistachios and herbs.

    David Frenkel at Work
  • In the Restaurant


    Prepping for dinner… a few hours later, perfectly plated fish.

    In the Restaurant
  • Cooking at Home


    ‘Home.’ A perfectly cooked piece of steak. And simple summer fare. Fish on the grill.

    Cooking at Home
  • Dining Out


    Hanging out in the kitchen of the popular restaurant Jaffa Tel Aviv and having a meal at Jerusalem’s market-driven restaurant, Machneyuda.

    Dining Out
  • Shira Ephrati at Work


    ‘Fig tart. You should know that it’s so beautiful in here. I will miss it.’ ‘Before baking: cherry tomatoes and Galilee goat cheese tart.’

    Shira Ephrati at Work
  • At the Cafe


    ‘Today there’s Kurdish food for the staff meal: stuffed grape leaves.’ ‘Honey and pine nut pie. Yummy. Though I’ve got a honey overdose.’

    At the Cafe
  • In the Kitchen


    ‘Successful experiment: 100% rye, sourdough, 2 kinds of raisins.’ ‘Summery raspberry mousse in the making.’

    In the Kitchen
  • Eating Out


    ‘I deserve this!’ Grilled chicken livers in a pita, at Miznon in Tel Aviv. And, Duck confit at Delicatessen in Tel Aviv: ‘Life is beautiful.’

    Eating Out

In Israel, Instagram has completely taken over the Tel Aviv food scene. It’s not just diners who are taking out their iPhones — many of the country’s most talented and savvy young chefs have become inspired photographers. Through posting on Instagram, the chefs have formed a more intimate relationship with their customers and their colleagues by exposing the once secretive process of developing new recipes.

It didn’t take long to transform photostream followers into customers. Omer Miller, chef and owner of two trendy Tel Aviv restaurants, Dining Hall and Table, admits that he uses Instagram as a marketing tool: “I have two restaurants to fill every night, and many times customers come in and specifically ask for the dish I posted earlier that day.” The owner of Brown Bakery would probably agree that the charming photostream of Shira Ephrati, assistant to chef Avi Melamedson, has helped generate significant buzz around the bakery’s beautiful window displays and pastries.

It is perhaps the strong sense of community in Israel that explains why Instagram has become so popular in the food world. Trends spread like wildfire in the dense tribal society of Israel, and this one has introduced peer pressure to the game. As one of the more prominent young chefs, David Frenkel, said to me recently, “If you’re not a photographer, you don’t exist.” Another chef confided in me that she had to stop posting photos on Instagram for a few weeks because the mental pressure of satisfying her followers’ hunger was too overwhelming. Nevertheless, chefs love using Instagram for the same reason everybody else does: Its filters make the ordinary look extraordinary. And this golden rule certainly applies to food.

Scrolling through thousands of photos from Israel’s top chefs offers a fresh glimpse into what made this summer in Tel Aviv so delicious. Chefs have even photographed their own kitchens, revealing what they make in the privacy of their homes. The pictures reveal a much simpler presentation: After hours, chefs crave comfort food, be it warm hummus or a bloody piece of grilled steak.

Below are photo diaries of three Israeli chefs whose photos are not only stunning, but also representative of the bustling Tel Aviv food scene.

Naama Shefi is a culinary curator and food writer who works to promote Israeli cuisine in New York. She posts photos on Instagram at @naamashefi

Omer Miller

On Instagram: @omermiller
1378 photos, 7530 followers

Omer Miller, chef and owner of Dining Hall and Table, is an Instagram guru. He says that Instagram is a way of life and that he doesn’t limit himself to posting food photos. He loves sharing everything “as long as it’s authentic,” he said. Images of private dinner parties, new tattoos and his girlfriend, screenshots of Web findings, and of course, food pop up regularly on Miller’s eclectic photo stream.

David Frenkel

On Instagram: @david_frenkel
303 photos, 1249 followers

David Frenkel, who started his career at some of the world’s top restaurants, including New York’s Per Se, returned to Israel to bring his own take on upscale Italian fare to diners at Tel Aviv restaurant Pronto. His photostream seems effortless and contains unedited photos, snapshots of the night’s specials and raw ingredients, as well as some of his gorgeous flowery presentations. Scrolling further, you will discover where he loves to eat after hours.

Shira Ephrati

On Instagram: @shira_ephrati
736 photos, 1190 followers

Shira Ephrati, a new-to-the-scene pastry chef who works at Brown in Tel Aviv, offers a rare and beautiful peek into the process of recipe development through her photostream. She has been taking photos since the days of Flickr, but her talent got a boost from Instagram’s filters.Some of her best shots are of the ethnic staff meals served at Brown that will make you wish you were part of the team: stuffed grape leaves, Persian rice and challahs for Friday.

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