Celebrity Chef Gal Ben Moshe has worked internationally in top establishments since an early age; nevertheless, he continues to be inspired by the flavours of Levantine cuisine that he seeks to expand and reinterpret. Discover in the interview below what makes his Michelin-starred food presented at prism so inspiring and popular in Berlin.
Before moving to Berlin in 2012 to open his restaurant GLASS, Chef Gal Ben Moshe evolved his culinary career under great chefs such as Jason Atherton, Marcus Wareing and Grant Achatz. There he was awarded 16 points in the Gault & MiIllau and for his master craftsmanship as well as for his unique cuisine was nominated for the Berlin Master Chef Award. Today at prism he wants more and creates an exciting and dynamic culinary experience for his guests, that starts with the carefully selected decor and attentive service.
Chef Gal Ben Moshe. All images courtesy of www.prismberlin.de
It was a pleasure to see you earlier this year at the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival. How did you decide to accept the invitation to join the event as a Guest Chef and was this your first visit to St. Moritz?
I was contacted very early by Fabrizio Zanetti, who is both the head chef at Suvretta House and the culinary director of the festival. He told me he was planning on doing this year's festival around Mediterranean cuisine, and I found that to be fantastic. I tried my best to help curate the chefs and recommend some colleagues.
I like to think of myself as an ambassador for Levantine cuisine. I think it is the next big thing, and I thought it was a great idea. I was honored to be picked by Mr. Zanetti so early in the process. It was my first time in St. Moritz, and it was like nothing I could’ve imagined. We really felt on top of the world.
You work with ingredients that are essential to Middle Eastern cooking: fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, and spices. As a true artist, you combined all these in a particular dessert, the Olive Oil Parfait— a masterpiece dish to taste and look at that crowned the Closing Night of the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival at the Kulm Hotel. How long is the development process for a recipe like this?
My cuisine revolves around ingredients that are unique to the region. In winter, it is difficult to source special fresh ingredients from the Levante, so we retreat a it to pantry produce. The olive oil dessert was the dessert on the opening menu at Prism.
I had a plan for a dessert around figs, but as opening was delayed from August to November, I realized I needed to make a new dessert. On one of my shopping runs in October, just before the opening, to the Arabic markets in Neukölln, I noticed the unripe olives in the shops coming in from the harvest that has just started in southern Europe and the Levante. I was really inspired by that and wanted to create a dessert around olives and their different ripening stages.
St. Moritz ORIENTAL CLOSING NIGHT 2023 ©David Bacher
So the olive oil parfait, the brine marmalade, and the caramelized black olives. Then complement it with acidity (citrus) and nuttiness (almonds), two flavor characteristics that are used to define olive oil. Ever since then, I serve this dessert on every autumn menu (between October and January). The initial version really flew out of me; I created it in the space of 2-3 days. But we have been serving it for 5 years, and every new version we make is a better and improved version. So in truth, the recipe is never ‘finished'; It is always a work in progress.
During the same gala night, you mentioned that you had the best welcome and host, Chef Rolf Fliegauf, at the Hotel "Giardino Mountain." What makes this property so unique?
I think that for me, unlike the big hotels, the small, intimate, but fine Giardino Mountain was a perfect setting. What made it truly magical were Rolf and his lovely wife, Jennifer. We clicked almost instantly, they’re simply great people and perfect hosts, and in a way, they are very similar to my wife and me. They
really made me feel at home, and I will forever be grateful for this experience. It is quite rare to make friends during a stressful event like this, but I feel like I have made new friends for life.
Since an early age and as a celebrity chef, you have worked internationally in top establishments; nevertheless, you continue to prepare Levantine inspired dishes today. What makes this food, in your opinion, so inspiring and popular in northern Europe?
I reached Levantine cuisine by mistake. I don’t do it as an homage to my inheritance or because my grandmother used to cook like this. I grew up in a pretty eclectic household; my parents were definitely foodies, but they were more likely to go out to a Chinese or French restaurant than anything ‘Levantine’. I spent a lot of years avoiding cooking Levantine cuisine, but once I started cooking it, I got sucked into it, not because of some spiritual or patrioticconnection but because of academic fascination. I truly believe it to be an unexplored and underestimated cuisine.
There is still so much potential to be unearthed from the different techniques, ingredients. I always tell my team that we are very early in the process of discovering our true potential. I think the reason it is so popular is that the flavors are bold and uncompromising, it is fresh, with a lot of vegetables; it fits the current climate; and the smokey aroma is really touching people in a primal way. I think it is the next hot global trend.
At Prism, you work on the team with your wife, Jacqueline Lorenz (above). who is one of Germany's top 50 sommeliers. What are the key benefits of working with a close relative?
I think it can be one of the hardest things to do, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You get a business partner who is really with you in the most uncompromising manner. Her commitment and perfectionism complement my personality, and we work great as a team together. We are both
very driven and look at the restaurant as our fourth child in a way. It is a very demanding line of work, but we get to spend every waking moment together. I think if we were to work apart, we’d hardly see each other.
How often do you renew the menu at Prism? And can anybody appreciate the dishes even if they don't try Levantine food before?
We are uber seasonal, because the Levant is very uber seasonal with the radical season changes. So we would do 6 menus every year, but they are not equal in length. We try to use some preservation techniques to elongate some of the menus, but our winter menu for example is around 10 weeks long because it is a very short and poor season in term of available ingredients and produce.
My food isn’t Levantine per se. My goal is to create a new culinary language using Levantine ingredients and techniques, I don’t deal with authenticity. My kitchen leans quite a lot on international influences, be it French or Japanese, but always with a Levantine spirit in it, I think it makes everybody find something familiar in what we do and make it easier for the guests to relate to what we do, even if they don’t have the emotional connection to Levantine cuisine. When using unique ingredients which are not globally known, we try our best to introduce them to ourguests before the start of the menu.
What's your signature dish at Prism?
Stone Bass with unripe grapes, grilled leeks, verjus beurre blanc and mediterranean shrimps XO sauce.
It is everything that my concept is, but also tells the story of who I am. Where I worked before and my travels around the world.
I was always a fish-first chef, as I started my professional career in as a simple employee at a local fishmonger and importer. It gave me tools that would later in my career lead me to work the fish station in most restaurants. The choice of Mediterranean fish and shrimps is part of my obsession with the taste and uniqueness of the fish I grew up eating, cooking and preparing. The Unripe grapes and the verjus are by-products of the yielding of the vines (cutting off unripe clusters to help the vine concentrate its efforts only on the best grapes), with verjus used as the lemon juice of the Levante for hundreds of years before the popularisation of lemon juice. The XO sauce is inspired by my life altering pop-up in Hong Kong when I just started cooking Levantine cuisine. The dish is inspired by Sole Verinque, which is grounded in my early career work in Modern French Fine dining restaurants. This dish, more than anything, is part of my personality. It is a dish that not only represents my cuisine but also represents
me as a person, I genuinely think no other chef could have made it this way.
Moving to Berlin and launching two restaurants doesn't leave much free time; do you cook privately, and do you have plans for a cookbook?
I like cooking at home for my kids. I know it’s a different standard to Michelin star cooking, but there is no greater joy than watching my kids eat my food without drowning it in ketchup and actually finishing their plates. I would love to write a cookbook some day, I have a lot I’d like to share. I think our field is all
about the sharing of knowledge.
See more at guide.michelin.com/en/berlin-region/berlin/restaurant/prism
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