This Sunday night, rising star chef and member of the tribe Micah Wexler will face off against Master Chef Bobby Flay on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef”. We caught up with the popular L.A.-based chef to get some cooking and restaurant advice, a recipe for pomegranate brisket and to find out if he really will appear on “The Bachelor”.
How did the “Iron Chef” team find you?
The producer came into Mezze, my first restaurant, and really liked the food. He asked to meet me and then asked if I’d ever considered doing the show. When I was younger, I imagined it, but I hadn’t thought the opportunity would come about at this point in my career. He came back 6 or 7 times and then he invited me to be on it.
What is the penalty for telling us about the show before it airs?
A million dollars. In fact, they make everyone who is in the audience sign a non-disclosure agreement. When my episode was taped, my sister Miri was in the audience, and like everyone else, she had to sign an NDA. Shortly after, I talked to my mother and she knew all this stuff about what happened and I called up Miri and said, “Didn’t you sign one of those papers they passed out?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Didn’t you read it?**!” And she said, “No.” I made sure neither of them said anything to anyone else.
Do you have any advice for Bobby Flay?
He’s done well for himself, so he should be the one giving me advice.
Mezze — a brightly colored selection of dips, salads, olives and pickle vegetables — is ever-present on the Israeli table, both at restaurants and in the home. Much like the small bowls of salads and cheeses that accompany the Israeli breakfast, a variety of mezze will crowd a table along with the requisite breads to soak them up. The spread could easily be a delicious meal unto itself, but it is most often served as an appetizer or first course. The requisite sharing, reaching, and dipping has a convivial feel and serves as a conversation starter. Best of all, because most of the items are simple and greatest made ahead of time, any home cook can easily replicate the delicious tradition.
As with so many Israeli customs and foods, mezze brings together multiple culinary traditions, including Lebanese, Syrian, Persian, Moroccan and Turkish. In the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” author Gil Marks traces the mezze tradition to ancient Persia, where the wealthy threw lavish parties and offered lots of little dishes to their guests to help soak up the alcohol. The Ottomans were responsible for spreading this tradition throughout the region. In Israel, bits and pieces from all of the mezze-loving countries have been adopted and absorbed into the culinary cannon for a spread all its own.