Chef Spotlight: Gabriel Israel of GREEN FIG in Hell's Kitchen
The dynamic 25-year-old culinary talent Gabriel Israel, formerly of Boulud Sud and the chef behind the Shuka Truck, is now heading up the kitchen at Green Fig inside YOTEL in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. He specializes in crafting boldly flavored, colorful and artfully plated fare that reflects his upbringing in his family's restaurant business in Tel Aviv, as well as his global travels and background as a graffiti and tattoo artist. Broadwayworld.com recently had the pleasure of dining at Green Fig and we interviewed Chef Israel for our "Chef's Spotlight."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
I first became interested in cooking when I was around six years old. My family used to have a house in the South of France where I would cook with my grandfather. He had a garden where he'd grow his own vegetables to cook with, so I'd go in the garden with him and became more and more interested in food and cooking.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I'm self-taught and interested in learning new techniques on my own, but I do look up to a few chefs. Chef Meir Adoni is one - I really like his style of food and the way he works with his employees in the kitchen. I haven't gotten to work for him myself but we do talk and keep in touch. Also, my dad, who decided to get into the restaurant business later in life after being in real estate for years. I was already into cooking at home when he got into the restaurant business, but from him I learned both what to do right and what to wrong when working in restaurants. It was very much a trial and error process.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I'm very influenced by my experiences traveling all over the world, from France to Spain and more. The base of my cooking is Mediterranean, Israeli and North African but I try to bring in flavors from all over. For instance, at Green Fig we serve the Jaffa to Tijuana, a pork belly dish that exhibits my appreciation for Mexican cuisine.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
My plating style is very influenced by street art and tattoo art. My signature dishes at Green Fig include Za'atar-spiced Chicken, Pork Ribs with housemade barbecue sauce ["Not Kosher BBQ"] and the Om Kalthoum Skirt Steak. These are dishes that will be going onto our pre-theater menu that launches September. They're great to enjoy before a play - or even after a play!
What is your favorite meal?
There's this taco place in Harlem around 118th Street and Third Avenue run by three ladies. It's a really small place but they make great tacos and taquitos. At home, I like to make roasted chicken with crispy potatoes. Also, orzo with butter, which my wife likes a lot.
Tell me a little bit about Green Fig for Broadway World readers.
Green Fig features modern Israeli cuisine with influences from North Africa's Maghreb region, the Middle East and southern Europe. The restaurant offers a lot of flexibility for dining, from first dates to dinner gatherings with friends and family to the incredible value of the upcoming three-course prix-fixe menu for Broadway theatergoers, which will begin September 6th. The diversity of ingredients, flavors, and artistic presentations are inspired by my global travels.
Green Fig is located inside YOTEL at 570 Tenth Avenue (between 41st and 42nd Street) NYC. Call them at 646-449-7790 or visit: www.greenfignyc.com. You can follow Green Fig on Twitter @greenfignyc.
Photo Credit: @RatedRuwan