The James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists today and among the names, one jumped out at us. Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas of Janjou Pâtisserie in Boise, Idaho, was nominated for Outstanding Baker.
“I am obviously extremely delighted and humbled to be nominated,” Mizrachi-Gabbitas said by phone from her bakery. “Such an honor to be on this list.”
So what’s a nice Jewish girl from Tel Aviv doing making croissants in Boise?
As she tells it, Mizrachi-Gabbitas was a manager of a Boise-based semiconductor equipment company, and there met her future husband, Chuck Gabbitas. While working for the company from Israel, her mother became ill. According to Edible Idaho, the loss of Mizrachi-Gabbitas’ mother in 2002 prompted her to learn how to cook while living alone. Shortly thereafter, she began training to become a pastry chef, interning at a French patisserie in Tel Aviv and finally relocating to Boise to be with Chuck.
In 2013, the couple opened Janjou, which is named for Moshit’s mother, Jan, whose nickname was Janjou.
Mizrachi-Gabbitas told the Forward how her background influences what she does at the bakery: “Quality food, fresh ingredients, made from scratch, like my grandmother used to make it with no shortcuts and no compromises,” she said, adding that the work ethic involved, “determination and efficiency, just like the Israeli army.”
Among the other semifinalists are:
- Shaya - Best New Restaurant
- Melissa Weller of Sadelle’s – Outstanding Baker
- Michael Solomonov, Zahav – Outstanding Chef (Zahav was also nominated for Outstanding Service)
- Ken Friedman, NYC (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, Tosca Café) – Outstanding Restaurateur
- Benjamin and Max Goldber, Strategic Hospitality, Nashville (The Catbird Seat, Pinewood Social, The Patterson House, and others) – Outstanding Restaurateur
Jean Hanks is the food intern at the Forward.