Chef Elias Akroush
Caressing the Senses with Every Bite
As I was growing up in Jerusalem, my Syrian grandmother taught me about Levantine cuisine. Helping in the kitchen as a teen while also holding a scullery position at a hotel after school hours inspired me to enroll in hotel management courses while gradually moving up in positions at hotels in Jerusalem as after-school jobs. After graduating with honors from Jerusalem’s Culinary Arts School at Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, I became an executive chef and taught at Notre Dame for eight years.
There are great opportunities for creativity in the kitchen: mixing traditional and modern elements and trying out various herbs while preserving the original main ingredients, and thus, the authenticity of the dish. Rather than following my grandmother’s recipes, I apply her techniques – the way she handled ingredients and used spices and herbs. There was intimacy and tenderness in the way she cooked, and it’s what I loved most about being in the kitchen with her and my mother.
When it comes to passion, I believe that cooking is one of the most intimate occupations in the world. You need to enjoy what you’re doing! When I cook, I use all my senses and pour my heart into every dish. In Arabic, we say, “One cooks with her/his soul” because we believe that cooking is a spiritual practice. I am known for my meat recipes; they are my signature dishes. I use only small amounts of a few spices to preserve the original flavors of the meat and the earthy touch of the herbs I add.
At a turning point in my journey, I realized that my passion reaches beyond cooking to building the perfect kitchen, restaurant, and even hotel. I discovered this while working at a modest local restaurant, managing to change the venue’s entire setting to attract people with a taste for excellence.
My dream will soon become a reality, as I am building a one-of-a-kind catering center in Jerusalem, were I can create my masterpieces, pamper my ingredients, and pour my heart and soul into every dish. My secret lies in the ability to prepare a homecooked-style meal on a larger scale while keeping its essence and full taste. I sincerely hope as well that restaurant owners will realize the importance of hiring professional, specialized cooks because eating out is less about the profit than the sensual experience.