In the academic world, Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel’s name is already well-known. Now the 33-year-old microbiologist – with a Ph.D. from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and four other postdoctoral degrees under her belt – is also being celebrated for her culinary wizardry. The mother of three (a six-year-old; and two-year-old twins) is the newest winner of the Master Chef televised cooking contest in Israel.
Atamna-Ismaeel, from the Arab-Israeli town of Baqa al-Garbiya, appeared in the final with Ido Kronenberg, of Savyon, and Meseret Woldimikhal, of Rishpon.
Atamna-Ismaeel said winning the contest was “one of the most exciting experiences of my life.”
The contest started out with 14 contestants. Throughout the show, Atamna-Ismaeel whipped up traditional Arab dishes with her own modern twist.
Although the judges did not like her originally devised “tomato caviar” it became a signature dish that proved a scientist can innovate in the kitchen as well as a laboratory.
Atamna-Ismaeel often spoke about being raised in the Jewish school system and about her goal of opening a Jewish-Arab culinary school. She said the prize money will go to making her dream a reality.
Master Chef was aired on Channel 2 and was the most-watched program on Israeli television.
Last year’s winner, Tom Franz, a German immigrant to Israel, became a celebrity cooking guru in his native Germany following his participation in the Israeli show. Last year’s runner-up was another Arab-Israeli scientist, neuroscience researcher Salma Fiomy-Farij.