Chef/Owner of Café 48, Tel Aviv
Chef Borowitz has created quite a sensation with his intimate and unpretentious Café 48 in Tel Aviv. Blending traditional European Jewish cuisines with modern influences inspired by his time in New York City, his menu ranges from sophisticated take on tongue, pickled herring with aioli and dashi to shpondra, a sandwich of short ribs confit, pickles and challah.
When you first entered ICC, what was your culinary background?
Actually when I went into culinary school I had very little background as a cook. I had worked as a line cook for a coffee shop place once I finished my army service.
Why did you want a culinary career?
I wasn’t sure I wanted a culinary career. I got my B.A. from NYU in political science and when I got back to Israel, went to work for the Israeli government. My life was always divided between cooking and politics…until I opened the restaurant.
Why did you choose the International Culinary Center?
ICC actually choose me. I went to look at the school once I landed in New York, after spending a year of travelling throughout South America. I went back home – the next available opening was a year later – then the Twin Towers were hit by two planes and I got a call, “Do you want to come?” I said, “Yes, when?” They said, “Next week.” There I was.
What was it like for you to study in New York?
It was incredible. Everything I know I owe to this great city. I was fascinated by the dedication of the people working in the culinary world. The experts that were my chefs at school and the professors that became my mentors at university.
How would you describe the quality of the instructors and overall education?
Superb. I really owe a great deal to the school for forming within me the right state of mind to be able to understand and grasp how things are done. The focus on the WAY and METHOD, not just on the end result, are fundamental not only to cooking, but for other things as well. People always tend to say cooking schools are useless—find a job and you’ll learn how to cook. That is totally wrong.
What was the most challenging part of your experience at ICC?
Probably working under Chef Didier, a tough French guy who showed me you can always ask for more from yourself. At first, I was not going to put up with his attitude and he was not going to put up with mine. We hit rock bottom only to become best friends. I still remember how he cuts a shallot with his fat fingers, without leaving an inch of waste. I still can’t do it after 12 years of hard practice.
What were your goals after graduation?
After graduation I was not sure where I was heading. I went to university and did part-time job at the Mercer Kitchen. I wanted to see how a restaurant needs to be run and it was a perfect place to be.
How was your return to Israel?
My return to Israel was overshadowed by the death of my mother. It is really why I decided to come back; I felt it was time to be around my family having been absent for almost seven years. In culinary terms we are still a developing nation…Israel has not been around for too much time, Israeli cuisine is still evolving, drawing inspiration from Jews coming from different places around the globe and from the wonderful weather and by consequence, the amazing produce.
How do you feel the International Culinary Center prepared you for the food industry?
I think my way would have been completely different without attending culinary school. Cooking is an art but it’s also science and while one can be without the gift of culinary talent, one cannot go into the restaurant industry without the perspective of a true professional. That is exactly what the school gives you.
What advice would you offer someone who is thinking about joining the industry?
It would be unwise of me to dispense advice as I am still learning. I can surely say this industry is tough and demanding and that the biggest reward is doing the thing you love.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned at ICC?
That chefs should only wear white aprons. And only white.