What motivated you to become a chef and how did you gain experience?
I had been working for years in my family’s business which is an established bridal salon. When I moved into my own place, I started cooking and slowly realized that I enjoyed creating new dishes. Over the next few years, cooking really became a hobby for me. When I was 30, my good friend who is a professional chef took me in and taught me the secrets of the trade. I would learn in the kitchen with him once a week while I continued at my regular day job. After a couple of years, I made the decision to work half-time cooking and half-time in the salon. This arrangement continued for a while. During this time, I worked in the well-known Angelica in Jerusalem, gaining experience in all the different stations in the kitchen.
At a certain point, I had to make a decision regarding where I wanted to be full time and went with what I loved: the kitchen.
When the owners of Angelica opened a new restaurant, the Grand Café in Jerusalem, they chose me as the sous-chef. And when they opened yet another place, Café De Paris, I became the executive chef, until moving to my current position as executive chef of Skyline.
What is Skyline and why did it open?
Skyline is a one-of-a-kind restaurant situated on the roof of The Jerusalem Gardens Hotel. The owners of the hotel, in New York, created Skyline in order to satisfy the need for a real high-end kosher l’mehadrin restaurant in Jerusalem. For people who’ve eaten in international restaurants and want to eat top quality in Israel, this is the place to go.
In order to keep everything at the highest quality, we create everything ourselves. It is hard to find gourmet mehadrin ingredients, therefore we create everything from scratch — sauces, breads, pasta, anything and everything necessary for our upscale dishes. For this reason, although our restaurant only opens at 5:30 PM, the kitchen work begins at 9 AM.
The fact that we have a high-level mehadrin hecsher really puts us in a category of our own. We are under the kashrus of Mehadrin Yerushalayim and the OU. All our meat has the hechsher of Rav Rubin, and we have a mashgiach tzamud the entire day. The mashgichim here are very involved in everything in the kitchen, leaving no place for any shortcuts..
Skyline boasts a small, unique menu — we don’t believe in mass production. We have about 10 each entrees and mains, with a handful of soups and desserts and a few specials of the day. Customers can also special-order something— we are flexible in creating exactly what you want.
The venue is a gorgeous place for dining. We can hold up to 70 people, so it doesn’t feel too crowded, even when it’s full. There’s a nice, quiet intimate ambiance on the roof, with a beautiful view of Jerusalem. This is not the type of restaurant with waiters bustling about and constant traffic going through. It is a real culinary experience, and reservations must be made in advance. Skyline is the place for those that really enjoy and appreciate good food.
Tell us about your kitchen staff.
We’ve had the same team working in the kitchen since I joined eight months ago. We’ve become a cohesive unit and know and understand each other, enabling us to efficiently work together. There are currently seven chefs working under me.
What are your three most popular dishes?
Our three most popular dishes are our meat platter appetizer that consist of liver pate, roast beef and a duck breast; our slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, which is roasted for seven-nine hours; and our steak entrecote, which is top quality and incomparable to most any that you’ve tasted elsewhere.
We also have the option for our menu tasting, where we bring out many “tastes” of different dishes. This option is for people who truly enjoy upscale food. We give you tastes of not just what is on the menu but of dishes that we’ll make for you at the time. We can only offer this option when the restaurant isn’t too full since it requires our kitchen and waiter staff to give a lot of attention to our tasters.
Tell us a bit more about your menu.
Many of our dishes are seasonal, and we rotate items in the menu based on season. Since I don’t serve anything unless it’s up to my strict standards, everything needs a lot of tasting and tweaking; I am already doing some experimenting for our winter menu now. I would like to mention that we have some very nice vegetarian and vegan options, and we have diners that come back again specifically for them.
What if a customer isn’t happy with a dish he orders?
This is a rare occurrence, but if it does happen, we will do our utmost to satisfy him, even if it is necessary to bring him a new portion.
Do you find that food presentation is important?
Although we are sure to plate everything aesthetically, I believe in putting much more effort into the way food tastes rather than its looks. It’s nice to dress up a plate with intricate food towers and decorative rings, but diners want delicious food, not just a pretty picture. And that’s exactly what we are here for.
Any plans for the future?
We have ideas for renovations, big and small, including enclosing the porch for the winter. And, of course, we dream of branching out and opening more restaurants to follow in the success of Skyline Jerusalem.
For a true culinary experience, reserve your table at Skyline.
4 Zeev Vilnai St., Kiryat Moshe