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Star Chef Solomonov Named Israel’s New Culinary Ambassador

Chef Michael Solomonov can add a new honor to his multiple James Beard awards and foodie hosannas: culinary ambassador for Israel.

In a partnership that launches this month, the Philadelphia-based, Israeli-born Solomonov and the Israel Ministry of Tourism are forming a culinary partnership “to champion Israel’s extraordinarily diverse and vibrant culinary landscape.”

Translation: Solomonov will become a roving gastronomic attaché, who touts Israel’s burgeoning food scene through guided food tours, special events across the U.S. and dinners at his restaurants, including the much-lauded Zahav and Dizengoff

“Chef Solomonov has been instrumental in raising awareness of Israeli’s burgeoning cuisine, not only from his Israeli restaurants here in the U.S., but also from the undeniable passion he has for his home country,” according to Uri Steinberg, Israel Tourism Commissioner for North America. “With his recent 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef, and his award-winning and newly opened Israeli restaurants here in the U.S., the timing couldn’t be better for us to join forces to promote the destination as leading culinary hotspot.”

At the core of the initiative, which Israel announced through its U.S. PR firm, “is the mission to highlight the incredible strides Israel’s food scene has made in recent years — from a place known primarily for its hummus and falafel, to a cuisine that is world-renowned.” Indeed, restaurants like Mechnayuda in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv’s Ouzeria and Bnei Zion’s Gouje & Danielle have generated raves worldwide; Forbes gushed this year that Israel has the world’s best restaurant scene.

“Culinary tourism is a thriving industry, especially in Israel as of late, and the industry will continue to flourish regardless of the partnership,” said Steinberg, when asked what Israel expects the partnership to generate in terms of visitor numbers. “However, we do believe that Michael’s passion for the cuisine will help inspire new travelers to make a trip to Israel to experience the diverse, and often-surprising quality of the cuisine. Part of that will come from their ability to try the Israeli food at Chef Solomonov’s award-winning restaurants here in the U.S. and also at some of the Israel-focused culinary events we’re planning.”

Could the partnership result in a co-branded restaurant by the chef and his homeland? “There are currently no plans” for that, Steinberg said.

While Solomonov didn’t respond to requests for comment, he did note in the press release that “it is my life’s work to help people in the United States and around the world to experience the depth and distinct beauty of Israeli cuisine… Israel is a nation, a culture, a people and a cuisine that I believe in deeply.”

Michael Kaminer is a contributing editor at the Forward.

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