Michael Solomonov, award winning chef and owner of Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadephia, takes audiences on a zig-zagging journey through the country where he was born and finds his inspiration. Along the way we discover the diversity of this small land, see the vast array of local ingredients, meet the diaspora who coexist through religious ties, come to understand how the political landscape infiltrates all aspects of life, and bond through shared and combined recipes that have spawned a new food movement as we go…In Search of Israeli Cuisine.

If the expanding shelves of Middle Eastern cookbooks in stores, and number of new restaurants with a middle eastern influence are any indication, there is a growing interest in the cuisines from this part of the world. Stemming from a land of ancient cultures, but whose food is only now starting to take centre stage, In Search of Israeli Cuisine is a timely documentary that will be sure to raise awareness. Its focus on Israeli food sparks discussion easily, as it is largely considered to be a fledgling cuisine, if acknowledged as its own fare at all.

Chef Solomonov goes weaving through this country, which he describes as the size of New Jersey, showcasing what each corner, lake, hill, and farm has to offer. From seafood, to cheese, to wine, to fruit, to oil, the local offerings are so diverse that when restauranteurs refer to using ‘local ingredients’ it means they will barely consider creating dishes with ingredients that come from further than 5 km away!

Another important point outlined in Solomonov’s interviews deals with the history, social stigma and beliefs of the diaspora that make up the population of Israel. Not surprisingly, everything is shrouded under the divide of politics and conflict, many interviewees dive right into the topic and they don’t skirt around how the conflict affects all aspects of their life, but what’s commendable about In Search of Israeli Cuisine is that the film is always first and foremost about the food.

The desire to set an example of peace and unity is expressed through this modern Israeli cuisine, which is a blend and influence of many cultures. It’s a table where Jewish and Arabic influence each other and blend in harmony. From Palestinian to nearby Morocco and Turkey, all the way to European traditions find their way into this food, which is then interpreted by local ingredients. There is so much history, influence, and a sense of what’s before you with every bite.

Is In Search of Israeli Cuisine opening weekend worthy?

Yes. In Search of Israeli Cuisine isn’t just food porn, although there’s no shortage of tantalizing cooking clips; nor is it a flimsy mask for a greater political agenda, though they wisely don’t ignore it either. What you have is a film that truly celebrates food and delves into the influencing factors that get these unique dishes to the table. It’s a food documentary that will feed your intellect, although it might leave you exiting the theatre a bit hungry.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine opens Friday, June 16, 2017 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Check their website for more information.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine Trailer