Healthy gourmet cooks just for you
HE IS a veteran of the Ironman chall e nge, a t r i a t hlete… and a dab hand at Passover baking. Nir Joels, personal trainer for some of the world’s hardest physical challenges, is part of a growing movement in Israel to provide quality and healthy cooking in people’s own kitchens, or the kitchens of their holiday homes. The “home restaurant” experience of having a personal chef cook up a treat is growing in popularity in Israel — and it is no coincidence that health-conscious foodies like Joels are faring well in the business.
“I choose my way of life as healthy and want the food I make to follow this and also be healthy,” he says.
In fact, it was health concerns, not Jewish law, that led to his Passover baking talents. He started making his chocolate cakes using Passover-acceptable coconut flour instead of chametz wheat because the former cuts down on the gluten and boosts the fibre.
The home-restaurant experience strongly appeals to people who like to see the raw ingredients of their meal, to know that they are eating quality produce and who want healthy and innovative recipes.
“It provides the feeling that everything is cooked fresh, in front of your eyes and people love this,” says Joels, who offers his services across Israel.
Elkana Biton, 34, who finished second place in the first Israeli version of television’s contest, likes his wife to treat him to a personal chef when he is celebrating a birthday. “It’s better than a restaurant — there you have to wait and you don’t really know what to expect but a good Nir Joels’ flourless strawberry cheesecake with a flourish personal chef will really get it right,” he says.
Mr Biton offered personal-chef services himself for several years — trying to juggle the work with his main job as a fireman — and says that the work and love that goes into the cooking makes it worth paying for. “A good chef will do his homework about what you want and really get it right,” he says.
Normally the chef will discuss menus with the client, and then take care of the shopping, sourcing ingredients that he or she feels will result in the best result. The chef will then arrive on the day of the meal, and make all dishes — working with serving and cleaning staff if requested. Most Israeli chefs are familiar, albeit to varying degrees, with the religious rules of Passover, of separation of meat and milk and laws governing the heating of food on Sabbaths and festivals.
Joels says that his in-house cooking service is about more than giving the householder a night off from the kitchen; it’s also about seeing food produced and enjoying new tastes. “I’m not a snob-chef who just likes to show how well I cook — it’s a very down-to-earth experience,” he says.
Nir Joels’ chocolatecovered dates and walnut spheres