I'm not sure what I expected. Hummus, certainly, but what else? Stuffed derma? Latkes? Matzah ball soup? As a native New Yorker with Ashkenazi roots, the foods I associated with being Jewish were the foods I associated with my grandparents. By extension, I suppose, I also associated these same foods with Israel, though those connections were more subconscious than explicit.
My first introduction to Israeli cuisine was during my day-school years, when the teachers would bring in falafel and hummus for Israel Independence Day. My knowledge of Israeli food deepened during trips to Israel, and my knowledge of fine cuisine in general expanded as I grew up watching the Food Channel. At my bar mitzvah, the guests bought me cookbooks and lessons at private culinary schools, where I was the youngest chef in the kitchen. By the age of 15, I was spending my summers working at some of the top kitchens in town. I learned from industry leaders during my studies at the Cornell University hotel school, and when I got an opportunity to prepare a dinner for 200 hoteliers during my senior year, my friend Mike, a Lebanese American, and I naturally put our spin on Middle Eastern Cuisine. When I graduated, I took my culinary training further, working for Wolfgang Puck, Joël Robuchon and Tom Colicchio.
Is Israeli cuisine the original fusion food?