Israeli chef Eyal Shani recently skipped a special ceremony in New York, awarding him his first-ever Michelin star, to cook for IDF soldiers stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Shani’s Manhattan restaurant Shmoné, which opened only a year ago, received its first Michelin honor on November 8 – which is fitting, as shmoné means “eight” in Hebrew.
Shmoné is one of seven New York-based eateries owned by Shani and his business partners.
Shmoné’s principal chef, Nadav Greenberg, and Shani’s business partner, Moish Ziv, accepted the star on his behalf.
The ceremony’s host congratulated the absent Shani in Hebrew, telling him “b’hatzlaha,” which translates as “good luck.”
This is only the fourth time in history that an Israeli eatery has been bestowed this honor. In the past, Moshik Roth’s Amsterdam-based restaurant &Moshik was awarded a Michelin star on two occasions. The establishment, however, had to close during the coronavirus pandemic.
Star chef Assaf Granit’s Parisian eatery Shabour also boasts a Michelin star, and so does Gal Ben-Moshe’s Prism, located in Berlin.
Shani, meanwhile, told Channel 12 that having a Michelin star was his lifelong dream, but “it is impossible to be happy in Israel today. This war emptied all the things we previously held dear of meaning.”
Shani’s own army experience many years ago put him on his career path. “I became a cook in the last month of my military service because the cook at the time went to jail. So, I took over the kitchen.”
Now, of course, his restaurants plate much more elegant fare.
The 64-year-old chef said he is cooking 3,000 meals for the IDF soldiers every day.
“This is the first time in my life that my food has a real meaning. I have never felt so proud to be an Israeli as I do in these moments. It’s pure love to be a part of this small, yet huge, organism called the Israeli people,” Shani said.
Shown in the Instagram post below with workers, Shani thanks the volunteers and vendors who have pitched in to cook for soldiers. Translated from the Hebrew, his message states that although “the heart is broken and the soul is crushed,” the entire Israeli nation “has become one entity full of heroism, giving and helping, kindness and greatness of spirit like no other in the world.”