#WeAreOpen! – Kristof’s Kitchen is waiting for you in Tel Aviv and Budapest
It’s funny to think back at my “history”, when it comes to cooking, baking and hosting. By now I can list a dozen of superfoods any time, matching them with delicious recipes – but I remember being just twenty years old, sweating above the stow, trying to figure out what Nigella Lawson wants me to do with that ham in Coca-Cola, smelling each spice jar desperately snooping for oregano, mixing it up with the zataar. A decade and a half later I have my very own business around culinary: lots of collaborations with restaurants all over the world, a vegan food truck in Budapest, a home restaurant in Tel Aviv, and a cookbook with 108 plant based recipes.
But how did it all start? So many people to be grateful to, for sharing a kitchen to cook in, a table to sit around, and some seriously wicked recipes with me…
I wish I could say I grew up with my grandmother making famous Hungarian pastries, or that every day coming home from school my mom is waiting for me with a three course lunch – but I’d be lying. The honest truth is that I’m a child of the „fast food generation” (I recently ran into an article on Atar Life on GMOs, and I had terrible flashbacks on what I used to eat as a kid), and I wasn’t even sure mashed potatoes can be made without using powder, or that the recipe for sweet and sour chicken doesn’t include the ready-made sauce. As a matter of fact I had no idea there are foods which doesn’t involve potatoes and lard as the main ingredients. My mother’s speciality was the most simple signature dish of Hungary „krumplistészta”, a dish with potatoes, pasta, and powdered paprika, and my dad’s best shot was the oven baked jacket potato.
Let’s face it, it’s a miracle that I don’t look like a potato by now –as they say television makes you look chubier. I was about 14 when I started to attend on movie and TV castings, and after 4 years of drama school I felt ready to change the world: I got a job as a talk show host of a channel for youngsters and as I started to travel around the world to interview filmstars, directors, fashion designers and other celebrities, culinary heaven started to open up for me. It was almost 15 years ago that I first saw Nigella Lawson’s famous cooking show, „Nigella Bites” and it captivated me so much, I didn’t want to leave my hotel room. The way this luscious, beautiful and passionate English rose was cooking made me feel like arriving to the kitchen of the home I never had. From that moment I was hooked.
When I met my ex husband almost a decade ago I was already a dedicated hobby chef, and so was he. My friends were laughing at me how I became the perfect example of a Jewish lady from Poland, never stopping making dinner until I got to 4-5 courses, and when they complemented the meal I honestly replied: „You are very nice but I almost didn’t do anything.” In this matter I found my perfect match in Matan’s mother, who is an incredible cook and by now, after slowly slowly half of the family turned vegan, she could easily run her own vegan restaurant. The „vegan boom” reached our family in 2009, way before all the trendy cafés in the White City started to offer chickpea omlets and tofu shakshuka. Our motivation was simple: trying to leave as small ecological footprint behind us as possible, and – as we had two doggies who we concider full members of the family – not to contribute to an industry which for animals are not more than household objects to be used.
Some could never imagine how easy it is to make a switch. People tend to think about vegan cooking as a mission impossibe, when in reality not using animal products is actually makes the time in the kitchen shorter, easier and deffenetly healthier. Noone needs to use suspicious sounding and looking substitutes: nature already took care of our sources of vitamins, proteins, and minerals, and the family doctor (also incredible chef) – my ex husband – agrees with me. Juicy burgers, „meatballs”, saussages can be prepared using beans, lentils and mushrooms, soaked nuts are perfect alternative for cheese – sweetened with coconut sugar for a cheescake, or spiced up for a savoury dish.
And as life goes on so our non-stop cooking does. After living in the middle of the balagan of Old Jaffa, a year ago our paths separated, but we still share the ideology of veganism and the love for good food. And a few months after the break up I’ve met my boyfriend, Nimrod, and for him the concept of non-stop hosting dinner parties for friends and family, and of offering romantic breakfasts for tourists on our terrace was totally new – but as soon as he realised how little time I’m spending in the kitchen, and how many dishes I serve by the end of the session, he became curious. Thank God he did! Soon I had to find out, he is just as talented in the kitchen as on stage – he is an actor as a matter of fact -, and not so long after we’ve met I already exchanged recipes with his mom, Irit, who happens to have Hungarian family roots as well, and makes delicious vegan friendly dishes for us every Shabbat.
In our cosmopolitan brunch menu we try to give a little taste of what being vegan and being obsessed with good food means to us. Come and be a guest on our vegan brunch, raise your glass filled with a vegan (yet sinful) cocktail for joy, love and peace, and while tasting the meals travel around the world with these international, cruelity free, flavorfoul, healthy dishes.
Book your table at our home restaurant in Tel Aviv HERE. Get familiar with my cookbook and find out more about my food truck in Budapest, HERE. Follow me as @whitecityboy on Insta, and get daily updates from the White City on the blog’s FB page – you can sign up for culinary and cultural tours and walks out and about Tel Aviv and Israel. Photos: Sara Salamon Photography.