Winners of the James Beard Foundation Awards came as no surprise to Philadelphians.
Michael Solomonov — known for his restaurants with CookNSolo partner Steve Cook at Zahav, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Federal Donuts, Rooster Soup Co. and, most recently, Goldie — took home his fourth James Beard award May 1 in Chicago, this year in the Outstanding Chef category for his work at Zahav.
Solomonov won two awards last year for his cookbook with restaurateur Cook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. In 2011, he also won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.
In the midst of the hype for the award, Solomonov isn’t slowing down. He and Cook recently announced plans to expand a new Dizengoff in Miami. GQ recently listed Rooster Soup Co. as one of its best new restaurants in America.
In addition to Solomonov, two other Philadelphia chefs took top honors.
Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink received Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, and Stephen Starr — with his more than 30-restaurant empire — was named Outstanding Restaurateur and received Best New Restaurant for his New York City joint Le Coucou.
Needless to say, it’s been a big year for Solomonov.
The CookNSolo team opened the philanthropically oriented Rooster Soup Co. in February and Goldie in April, which came as a surprise to many. He was also the subject of a 2016 documentary, In Search of Israeli Cuisine.
“The human value to [Rooster Soup Co.] is what I think is so exciting,” Solomonov told the Jewish Exponent in February. “There’s people that need help, and there’s people that with a little bit of effort can provide it, so it’s nice to be a part of it.”
Solomonov — who could not be reached for comment — and Cook have continued to bring Jewish and Israeli food to Philadelphia and beyond, specifically focusing on falafel at Goldie.
“Our conversation about falafel started in 2008 when we opened Zahav,” Cook said in a release. “We spent a lot of time explaining to guests that Israeli food and falafel are not synonymous. And we’ve always found that when we travel to Israel, the places that serve the absolute best hummus or shawarma or falafel — that’s literally all they do. And that is what we want Goldie to be about.”
Solomonov told the Exponent in 2016 that sharing the message behind his melting pot of Israeli food is his dream; “to be able to show people Israel and to just go in depth in all these tiny cuisines that make Israeli cuisine awesome.”
“My life’s mission is to celebrate Israeli food and Israeli people through food, so it’s cool to be able to do that,” he said.
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