BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) –Argentinian chef Tomas Kalika, who cooks traditional Jewish foods with a modern twist, won the Chefs´ Choice Award 2019, the only peer-voted prize at Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony.
Kalika started to learn about cooking at the age of 17 in Israel with award-winning chef Eyal Shani, who later helped Kalika get a job at the Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem. Kalika later was head chef at the Eldan hotels chain. After eight years of living far from family in Israel he returned to Argentina as a professional chef.
Kalika believes that Jewish food is the first truly global cuisine and defines it as “the emotional memories of the Jews who fled Eastern Europe, the Sephardim who were expelled from Spain, the Mizrahi who have lived in the Middle East since Moses,” according the website of his restaurant Mishiguene, which means crazy in Yiddish.
The restaurant was opened in Buenos Aires in October 2014 by Kalika and his friend and partner Javier Ickowicz. Among his top dishes are: gefilte fish wrapped in carrot ribbons and topped with fish roe and micro greens; Mi Baba Ganoush with char roasted eggplant, yogurt sauce, toasted almonds and tahini; slow-cooked pastrami; and Kalika’s Bubbe’s Varenikes, a potato-stuffed dumpling.
The restaurant also placed 20th on the 50 best list during the ceremony on Thursday in Buenos Aires. Mishiguene was the winner of the Highest Climber Award 2018, jumping 32 places in the list from 50 in 2017 to 18 the following year.
According to the panel, “determination, self-realization and a career peppered with vicissitudes” have contributed to Kalika as recipient of the other chefs’ votes as the best of 2019.