Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Chef Divine

Barbara Bensoussan

Chef Shalom Kadosh creates sumptuous kosher cuisine for heads of state — and he’s put Israel on the culinary map

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

 Mishpacha image

Kadosh believes that serving top-quality kosher gastronomy to non-Jews or nonreligious Jews is a way of making a kiddush Hashem, demonstrating that adherence to Torah law in no way impedes a chef from creating royal repasts. When Kadosh prepared a meal for former French president Jacques Chirac and Israeli president Ezer Weizman, Chirac pulled Kadosh aside and asked, “Is this really a kosher meal, with kosher meat?”

T he word “chef” typically brings up one of two stereotypes.

The first — the old fashioned one — conjures an image of a Gallic prima donna in a toque, whose snooty gastronomic sensibilities assure the perfection of a cream sauce or perfect timing for a standing crown roast. Then you have the newer, reality-TV-style chef; a brash, foul-mouthed tyrant brandishing blow torches and blocks of dry ice, concocting bizarre and often unnatural riffs on real food.

Israeli chef Shalom Kadosh calls forth neither of those stereotypes. Now in his late sixties, tall and solid-looking, he has a soft-spoken, humble manner that evinces no snobbery or flamboyant showmanship. Yet beneath the unassuming demeanor lies a quiet confidence and deliberate, seasoned approach to food that’s the product of over 45 years in the industry.

He’s worked hard to get where he is, but still seems a little surprised it carried him so far. “Who would have thought a kid from Afula would one day cook for the president of the United States?” he says with a little smile. “But everyone needs to dream. If you don’t follow a dream, you won’t get anywhere.”

For 42 years, Kadosh has served in the kitchen of the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem, for most of them as top chef. But he’s also the go-to chef when the Israeli government needs to host a state dinner. When Begin received Carter, when Netanyahu hosted Obama, when Putin and King Hussein came on official visits, it was Kadosh’s world-class cuisine that created the gracious ambiance for the conversation. In 2011, despite never having officially been appointed the top government chef, he was invited to join the Club des Chefs des Chefs, a prestigious association of chefs who serve heads of state.


The World from a Galley

We meet Mr. Kadosh on the Upper East Side, at a table at the relaxed-yet-high-end Mike’s Bistro. Owner Mike Gershkovich, an impressive chef in his own right, takes a seat with us to listen in. While almost 20 years younger than Kadosh, he has years of experience in the food business and contributes the occasional judicious remark.

“The younger generation doesn’t want to go to cooking school. They watch these reality cooking shows and think they can spring onto the scene without any background,” he says. “But a chef needs cooking school. Trying to be a chef without it is like a building without a foundation”

Kadosh comes from a family who knows what it is to follow a dream. His parents, who moved from smaller villages in southern Morocco to Casablanca, had been making a good living selling groceries. Shalom was sent to yeshivos in Casablanca, Meknes, Sefrou, and Fez. But in 1962, when he was 12, his parents left it all behind and followed their dream to live in the Holy Land. “My father gave up his business and took a job planting trees for Keren Kayemet,” Kadosh says. “But he didn’t care — he was so happy! He always retained a deep love for Eretz Yisrael.”

Life in Afula Illit in the 1960s was enlivened by simple pleasures, like watching politicians come to town to give speeches. “For us, it was the best show,” Kadosh says. He once went to Haifa to watch Menachem Begin give a speech from the back of an open truck. 

At the time, he says, he never imagined that one day he’d get a call asking him to cook a meal for Prime Minister Begin and President Jimmy Carter. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 674)

Related Stories

Battle Scars

Yael Schuster

It’s always tumultuous for a child when parents divorce, and providing stability is critical. While ...

Summer All Year

Yisroel Besser

For Rabbi Judah Mischel and his staff and campers at HASC, the past two months are the fuel to keep ...

The Final Showdown

Rabbi Moshe Grylak

The Heavenly message of these frightening dramas

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"