INSP.EAT – Nir Mesika: “Chef has to live the food. Learn every day, taste, open books.”

Chef Nir Mesika runs the restaurant Timna in New York’s East Village. Timna was named Best New Restaurant in America by USA Today shortly after its opening. Nir brings Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine into a new modern level. And I had a chance to talk to him just before the dinner service started.

This Israeli Chef told me how he walked into a kitchen of his dream restaurant and said he wants to cook for them. And became a sous-chef soon after. We also talked about Anthony Bourdain, just a week or two before he passed away. Anthony’s book Kitchen Confidential was one of the main reasons why Nir decided to be a chef. And when he saw Bourdain a few weeks ago, he went to tell him that.

I’m really inspired by how chefs work. “17 hours in the kitchen? You don’t feel the hard work. But put me in the office for 17 hours and I’ll kill myself.” The reason why he can focus mainly on cooking is that he runs a single restaurant as opposed to several restaurants. “If you have more, you need to zoom out and be more of a manager.” He loves cooking and waits for the morning to come so he can come back to work: “My first wife told me: If you want us to stay together, you need to stop cooking. Two weeks later we divorced.”

Check the podcast below and have a look at the video:

Podcast version on Tino Forbidden iTunes: https://bit.ly/inspeatpodcast

Books and movies which Chef Nir Mesika mentioned:
Anthony Bourdain – Kitchen Confidential (https://amzn.to/2l3jJzN)

Few quotes from the interview:

“The best food experience? My friend took me to a fine dining restaurant. And after the first bite, I realized I don’t know anything about food. This was a life changer and I wanted to work in this place. So after I finished the dinner, I went to the kitchen and said: ‘Who is the chef? I want to work in your restaurant.’”
“My grandparents had a bakery in my hometown. I was used to seeing people working in the kitchen. If my grandmother knew I’m not cooking kosher, she would probably kill me.”
“In Timna, we change the menu every two weeks. I get a lot of inspiration from the weather.”
“My point in Timna is to preserve my childhood memories. The food I used to eat at my grandparents’ house, on the market, on the street. Bring it here and give it my own twist.”
“Being in the kitchen means I’m blessed. Not everyone knows what they want to do. I’m sitting home at night and I’m waiting for the morning to come to go back to my restaurant.”
“This industry is a lot of passion. In the kitchen, you don’t feel the hard work. I work 14 or 17 hours a day and I don’t really feel it. I can’t tell you I work hard. But put me in the office for 17 hours and I’ll kill myself.”
“I want to focus on my own customers. I want to make them happy.”
“My secret weapon is the way that I think. To be super positive. Everything bad that happens to you is a lesson.”
“I saw Anthony Bourdain two weeks ago. He sat on the bar, I went to him and told him – because of you I’m cooking now.”
“Other chefs always give you inspiration and ideas. I take elements for a dish and give it my own flavor, my own twist. But I rather take inspiration from my home, from old recipes. And make it with modern techniques.”
“I don’t think I want to switch to be someone else. But if I could choose to be anyone for 24 hours, I’d like to be my wife.”
“I wouldn’t change anything. I’m not sorry about anything that happened to me.”
“My ultimate goal? To put the Israeli cuisine on the global culinary map.”


Listen to the podcast interview here:
This entry was posted in INSP.EAT. Bookmark the permalink.