The 21-Year-Old Chef Conquering Jerusalem
By Menachem Lubinsky, Lubicom CEO
At 21, Avi Katz can do much more than flip omelets.
When I think of a successful chef, a few images come to mind. I picture a crisp, white chef’s hat worn by a middle-aged man, matched with an equally ironed out white apron. Pair that with shocking amounts of coffee, lots of late nights, and of course some unhealthy habits that I associate with the life of a restaurant chef.
Well, imagine my surprise that the guy flipping my onion omelet at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem is only 21 and cooking for 18 years? Yep, he’s been cooking since he was 3 and actually had his own catering business at 12 specializing in exotic soups. With his smart chef’s uniform, he looks every bit the chef you would expect at a 5-Star hotel.
From the moment I met Avi, my chef standards changed. No more do I associate quality food and impeccable plating with older chefs. Instead, I have come to the realization that the millennial generation has changed today’s restaurant standards. With social media being the prominent source for culinary ideas, they have really taken food to the next level, and it’s hard to compete.
Flashback two years earlier, Avi was the winner of the first-ever Kosher Masters Competition at Kosherfest, hosted by Joy of Kosher’s Jamie Geller. With hundreds of onlookers and thousands watching via livestream, Avi tackled a mystery box to create: Herb-Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb with Ribboned Vegetables Rendered in Beef Bone Marrow, and Kielbasa Sausages with Orange Gastrique. I was really out of breath when he went through the ingredients and more so when I tasted his dishes.
Now a master in his own homemade Facon sausages and handmade dried beef jerkies, Avi explained that even simple chicken has to be massaged and treated, much like a human is treated in an expensive sauna.
Quite a resume for a yeshiva boy who hails from Memphis, learned in Miami, went to Lev Hatorah in Israel and in between worked in Pesach programs and even as a sous chef for the Achva West travel program. Here and there he was hired to be a private chef and even got to do a few high-end anniversary dinners. Mentors? Sure, Shelly Ostrow, the well-known chef from Holy Cow in Memphis. No wonder investors are banging down his door to open a restaurant. But he and his wife are in no hurry.
So what’s next? In the meantime, the Katzes are truly happy in Jerusalem but don’t be surprised if this rising up-and-comer turns up somewhere near you.