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Tel Aviv food festival pairs world's top chefs with Israeli restaurateurs

Denmark's Bo Bech, owner of Geist Restaurant in Copenhagen, who was invited to take over the kitchen of Tel Aviv’s pioneering boutique hotel Hotel Montefiore
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Israel's annual Round Tables food festival came to an end last week after delighting palates around the city with creative culinary fusions imagined by top rated chefs from around the world and Israel's best restaurateurs.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs were responsible for flying the 60 chefs from leading restaurants in 11 countries to Israel, enabling Israeli and international chefs to share ideas and ingredients. Together, the pairs served meals to some 14,000 diners.

The festival fused Thai restaurant Nithan’s chef Shahaf Shabtay with 7132 Silber, a 2-Michelin star restaurant in the Swiss Alps that is focused on farm-to-table dining.

A number of Michelin-star chefs participated in the annual festival, sponsored by American Express, including Denmark's Bo Bech, owner of Geist Restaurant in Copenhagen, who was invited to take over the kitchen of Tel Aviv’s pioneering boutique hotel Hotel Montefiore.

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Chef Bo Bech is an award-winning chef and restaurateur, with Michelin stars to his name, but he's perhaps best known as the TV host of Denmark's answer to Kitchen Nightmares. He first made his name in Denmark's food-capital at Restaurant Paustian, where he won a Michelin star, before setting up his newest venture Geist in 2011.

"Chef Bech is a special talent who lives and breathes his craft," says Hotel Montefiore's chef Shlomi Harari. "We both love a good challenge. I think the result will be something exciting here in Israel, where Nordic cuisine has yet to make real landfall.”

Bech is no stranger to taking over foreign kitchens, though he had not previously dabbled with Israeli food. Prior to the festival, Bech hosted Harari at his restaurant Geist in Copenhagen.

“We had a chat, and rather than me being a dictator and saying ‘this is what I want to do!’ he had a look at the food at Geist and we had an open conversation about what he thought would work for Round Tables. Particularly in terms of produce, because that can sometimes be the challenge,” Bech told i24NEWS

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Geist Restaurant is known for its pervading love of local ingredients. Dishes like finely sliced courgettes with tiny raw fjord prawns, or buttery mashed potato topped with brown stone-crab meat are pure celebrations of Nordic cuisine. Impeccable Scandinavian produce is at the heart of many of the dishes which explains why the collaboration with Round Tables at Hotel Montefiore was such a success.

The result of the fusion between Bech and Harari was a Middle Eastern, Scandinavian culinary love affair combining Israeli flavors with Scandinavian simplicity, and Chef Harari was contented with the collaboration “it is always a pleasure to have a great chef from a whole different culture in our kitchen”.

“Overall the event was a big success every service was fully booked and sold out months in advance, and we believe we delivered,” Harari told i24NEWS.

“It was a great opportunity for the kitchen staff to learn new techniques and new materials, and also for our regular customers who wouldn’t normally be exposed to this kind of food. I am really looking forward to seeing who will join us next year…” Chef Harari said of this year's event.

Bech, the renowned chef and bread baker, launched a series of pop-ups in New York in 2015 called Bride of the Fox. Over the course of several months, he would take over established restaurants for a night or two and feed a group of up to 20 people at a single table.

This is also not the first time Hotel Montefiore has hosted a Scandinavian chef. Last year Nordic chef Chef Thurston Smidt was a guest at the Hotel for Round Tables. Mr. Harari was able to gain an appreciation of Nordic cuisine which is perhaps the reason why he felt it necessary to have another Scandinavian in the kitchen this year, to revisit those influences.

Lotte Beilin is a Producer at i24NEWS

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