By Apicius Staff
Photos courtesy of Shaul Paloge

Apicius alum and chef Shaul Paloge from Israel visited Florence in Spring 2017 to catch up with faculty and visit the campus. Shaul, who has visited in the past and shared his expertise with the Ganzo team, was featured at a special aperitivo featuring a Mediterranean ode to Italian and Israeli flavors.

The menu included classic favorites such as falafel and tahini, arancini rice balls from Sicily, tumeric-flavored fish, eggplants in various versions, and a gorgeous platter of dates to conclude the evening. The special touch he brought was found in fusing different Mediterranean flavors, such as the arancini balls placed on a bed of tzatziki sauce, or stuffing the dates with Italian mascarpone.

We recently interviewed Shaul for a closer look at how he developed the menu and advice on how students benefit from the Italian culinary training he himself experienced as a former student:

Shaul, how did you compose the menu's dishes and flavors?
I chose these dishes first by sharing my own belief, which is staying loyal to local ingredients from the kitchen culture each is coming from – in my case, Mediterranean cuisine. I wanted to offer courses that respect the type of kitchen I was invited to. So by combining the local  ingredients and Italian recipes, I chose to create a refreshing and new “twist” for each. The arancini for example enjoyed the addition of feta cheese and yogurt. The traditional flavors from my background included stuffed dates, hummus, and tahini dips. Even if most people are familiar with them, each country in the Mediterranean makes them differently and it was important for me to share with Italian and international diners at Ganzo the Israeli take on them.

Tell us about the recipes you presented at Ganzo.
Some are recipes we use regularly at my restaurant Palogi, in Binyamina, Israel. I developed them over the years through a combination of the places I've traveled to throughout Italy, and you'll definitely notice the influence of my favorite region – Tuscany. It took many trial runs to perfect them, considering that what's difficult to replicate from Italian cuisine is its simplicity. For example, I needed to reach a certain balance between loyalty to tradition and reinterpretation in the case of the arancini given that the overuse of feta and new seasonings would've been too dominant.

Tell us about the connection between the recipes and your studies in Italy.
Dishes such as risotto and eggplant parmigiana are some examples I personally like and respect. I decided to study in Italy because of an attraction to the Italian kitchen, and being at Apicius gave me to opportunity to investigate this attraction firsthand. Both dishes are eaten throughout Italy, and consider that the primary ingredients are also used throughout Israel and in Mediterranean cuisines in general. I wanted to combine two well-established kitchen cultures in one evening through an interesting and balanced presentation. They fit well together. Both are neither too strong or too light in flavor and impact, both can be gentle but have a distinct character.

What was it like to come back to Apicius as a guest chef?
A great opportunity, considering my student days in Florence. Firstly, it was refreshing to get out of my own kitchen and work with different customers at Ganzo. Secondly, I felt a sense of pride towards coming back to where I started, and was welcomed with open arms. The students from the courses that collaborated with me for the event were bright and curious individuals, and they reminded me of myself at their age. It made me happy to see them passionate about learning new things. This is precisely what makes people grow and stay interested in the profession. The students were well-prepared and one can immediately see the development they gain from the institution – the excitement in their eyes made me happy. As for the staff and faculty, everyone was welcoming and kind as always, humble and down to earth, willing to assist me in anything I needed. I felt at home and respected for the journey I've made from being a student to becoming a professional and colleague. I definitely plan on coming back.

Can you share some words of advice for current and future culinary students?
Stay passionate about new things and ingredients. Stay loyal to yourselves in the kitchen and in terms of dishes you like. Treat cooking no less than an art form that produces masterpieces. Excitement, passion, and love are a must in this profession – the food feels everything. Stay calm, cultivate peace, and maintain respect for anyone working in the kitchen with you. Learn how to work with and learn from others. Stay open-minded. And most importantly, have fun in this special profession.

For further details regarding Palogi, please visit the restaurant's website and FB page.

chef shaul paloge apicius palogi

 

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