(JTA) — “I thought it was just going to be about falafel and hummus.”
That was the perception of Israeli cuisine that filmmaker Roger Sherman had when he reluctantly decided to accompany his friend, the acclaimed Jewish cookbook writer Joan Nathan, on a food tour of Israel in 2010. But the reality exceeded his expectations.
“I was blown away by what I consider to be the hottest food scene in the world,” Sherman told JTA in a recent interview. “I thought, this is the perfect subject for a film.”
It was. After a successful run on the festival circuit, Sherman’s documentary “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” — which attempts to define and explore what Israeli food actually is — opens March 24 in New York at Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika Film Center. It will open March 31 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia, with other cities to follow.
In general, “we don’t know anything about what goes on in Israel except for conflict,” Sherman said. “This is a portrait of the Israeli people through food.”
Sherman, whose previous documentaries include “Medal of Honor” (2008) and “The Restaurateur” (2010), said he usually avoids having hosts in his films — “I feel they get in the way between the subjects and the viewers” — but he wanted to change up the approach for this documentary.
“Israel is such a complicated place, I needed someone to help translate that situation,” he said.
After a trip from New York to check out Zahav, a Philadelphia restaurant that a friend described as serving the best Israeli food in the U.S., Sherman had the chance to meet the restaurant’s chef and owner, Michael Solomonov.
Sherman knew immediately that Solomonov would make the perfect chef-guide for his film.