Chef Meny Brings Traditional Mediterranean Foods to New Jersey
Joanna Gagis talks with Chef Meny Vaknin about his experience on the Food Network's "Chopped" and why he feels it is important that his restaurant, Mishmish, brings traditional Mediterranean foods and flavors to the New Jersey area.
"Welcome to Life and Living. I'm Joanna Gagis. He was born in Israel. He launched his cooking career in New York and now he's bringing his culinary genius to the Montclair New Jersey area. He is Chef Meny Vaknin, owner and Executive Chef of Mishmish restaurant in Montclair, like we said. How are you doing? I'm good, how are you? Good. Welcome to the program. Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be here. We love having you here because you bought food!That's the way to my heart for sure. I know. That's always a good angle. It's a good entrance, right? Tell us a little bit about Mishmish Restaurant. Mishmish Restaurant is a Mediterranean restaurant that at the core of it is an Israeli geography and a wider Mediterranean cuisine. My parents were born in Morocco, so I was growing up on that cuisine. The Jewish Moroccan cuisine mixed with the Israeli Mixed with a lot of other cultures so I wanted to bring all of that into a small casual eatery and mix all that with everything that I learned with my years in New York as a Chef, as a cook, in culinary school. Mix all of that into something that doesn't make sense but makes a lot of sense as far as hospitality. Okay. We'll break that down, but first, let's talk about your career. You went to the French Culinary Institute, right? Why there? Yeah. Which is now the International Culinary Center. Yeah. Okay, why there? Why there? To be honest, it's a quick program which I needed. I went into culinary school a little bit later in my career. I worked for about 7 years and then I decided, okay, this is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life, I think. So it's time to get the education. To get the stamp. So is there something about the French cuisine that you wanted to learn? Yeah. I adore the French cuisine as the foundation of everything. There's something about that foundation that makes you go in as a chef. You know, you build everything on that and then you travel to different worlds from that because we really all do use that strong foundation. Because the French people treated food in a funny way and in a different way. Like my Grandmother treated it back home. It was almost religious. In your home.In my culture, yes and growing up. And the French in the way they cook and the way they dine, at least the old school kind of thing, is that's what goes through. That's why I adore it so much. So you learn the French, kind of staple approach, to cooking but then you brought in your history..."