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Visual Diaries From the Israeli Kitchen

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.

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

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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