Arab-Israeli microbiologist wins ‘Master Chef’

Nof Atamna-Ismaeel told judges throughout the fourth season of the television cooking contest that her dream is to open a Jewish-Arab culinary school.

Meseret Woldimikhal, Ido Kronenberg and Nof Atamna-Ismaeel made it to the Israeli 'Master Chef' finals. (courtesy)

Meseret Woldimikhal, Ido Kronenberg and Nof Atamna-Ismaeel made it to the Israeli ‘Master Chef’ finals. (courtesy)

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.

Master Chef contestants congratulate Nof Atamna-Ismaeel on her win.  (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Master Chef contestants congratulate Nof Atamna-Ismaeel on her win. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)


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.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.