Chefs and Entrepreneurs Elisheva and Moran Combine their Passion for Cooking and Israel with the “House in Yaffo”

「FEMALE LEAD」 is a series on ISRAERU web magazine, featuring interviews that highlight the stories of leading Israeli and Japanese women.

Elisheva and Moran, two Israeli chefs, founded the “House in Yaffo” together, an event center in ancient Yaffo, Tel Aviv. The event center is decorated with art, and they serve their chef meals for small events for Israelis, tourists, and businesses. Their meals are served on ceramic plates made by disabled adults. Elisheva Engelberg and Moran Aharon, now 39, started their journeys separately at the age of 20, and when they met five years ago, they decided to work together.

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A Passion for Cooking

Moran started cooking because of her mother. She grew up with lots of delicious food in her house, and wanted a career that would “fulfill herself and make other people happy.” She studied culinary arts in Eilat, which is in southern Israel, and later studied in Paris. She spent three years working in Paris and Italy.

Elisheva started cooking at a young age, and she always knew she wanted to open a restaurant, even though it wasn’t such a socially acceptable choice at the time. The idea of being a chef always attracted her. When she came back from travelling the world as a young adult, she started her career path.

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Unique Culinary Events in Yaffo

They began throwing culinary events at Elisheva’s home, but when that got too small, they looked for a house that would be a perfect venue that they could fill with beautiful art, making it unique. They came across the House they currently use by chance, and fell in love with it.

Each meal they create is different. Their style is farm to table, meaning they make whatever fresh produce is available that day. One of the unique things they do is use ingredients you won’t likely find in your own kitchen. While each event they host has a different menu, the most memorable meal to them was what they prepared for the Prince of Dubai who was visiting Israel, in the style of Israeli fusion: Risotto with duck, grape leaves and hummus. They combined Israeli and Arab styles, and are inspired by the city of Yaffo in which they live.

They show off local foods and Israeli wines, creating a gourmet kitchen. “We create something Special and real, food that connects with people. We present food as art.”

They’ve done events for people all over the world, including business groups (like a group of astronauts!) as well as tourists from countries like China, Spain, Italy, and Canada. One of the business events they hosted was for Toyota.

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The Pandemic: In the Midst of Uncertainty, Creating Something New

At the time that the pandemic hit, they owned a large house for events which had to close. They were confused at first as to what was happening, and they had no idea how their business would be affected. It was very difficult when they shut down public gatherings, but things improved when the government allowed for small, outdoor gatherings. Usually they were still fully booked, and realized their business was shifting to a different sort of event. While they were more used to hosting tourists, they realized their clientele would be Israeli for the time being. “We realized there would be more of a focus on small, quality events. You can’t wait for someone to solve your problems, you have to figure it out yourself.”

While the pandemic took them for surprise, it also allowed them to start their next business venture. They opened a new deli called “Alma,” which has local foods and a fresh aesthetic. They got inspired by walking around Yaffo during the lockdown. “We realized that because some businesses closed, new opportunities can open. [Moran] asked Elisheva, what’s your dream? And she said, “I always wanted to open a deli.” Now, they wait for tourists to come back into the country and visit their new spot.

The pandemic may have been their largest business challenge, but it taught them to think outside the box and match themselves to whatever situations arise. They’ve succeeded not only in not shutting down, but they’ve also created great things throughout the past two years. “As business owners, we learned to be more flexible and dynamic.”

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Taking Part in the Community

Part of their commitment to helping their community is using dishes made by disabled adults, who they’ve reached through the nonprofit “Shiluvim,” which they found by chance. They fell in love with it, and decided to adopt the cause. All their dishes are handmade by these adults.

For Elisheva and Moran, sharing their success with their community was a must. “We’ve always volunteered and were involved in projects with disbaled people. Elisheva even got a Masters degree in special education. It’s part of the way we were both raised. Our agenda is to give back to the community.”

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Women in Business

Their advice to other women starting new businesses: “Don’t be afraid. Take risks.” They encourage other women to follow their dreams, but also remind them to go about it professionally and check the numbers.

Elisheva and Moran advise other young chefs how to go into the business independently, and give lectures about their story and female empowerment to businesses and private events.

The next chapter for them is to focus on family, but they have more business ideas as well, such as turning Alma into a chain. They always have new ideas, but they also want to develop what exists. Currently, they also do catering for groups of 20-30 people. They want to have their own organic farm, and use the produce to host events for 30-50 people once a week, along with good Israeli wine.