By Regan Stephens – Fortune
March 5, 2020
Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook argue about where the conversation happened—whether it was in the kitchen’s hot pass or cold pass—but they remember exactly what was said with clarity. They were about two weeks away from having to shutter Zahav, the modern Israeli restaurant they opened in Philadelphia in 2008. Though the concept earned recognition and critical acclaim from the beginning, it lacked customers. Solomonov remembers a night they did only 17 covers, before he got a sage pep talk from his business partner.
“When we opened, we tried to be very literal and make things that were very traditional,” Solomonov says. “At one point, Steve said, ‘You’re a chef. You don’t need to be rooted in tradition.’ And that concept and the idea that you can look at Israel as a whole and say, I’m going to take the Yemmenite, the Moroccan, the Palestinian, the European, and put them together, that we have literary license over whatever we’re making. We’re not in Israel. There were a lot of things that lined up then, but that was our approach to food from then on. It was a pivotal moment.”
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