Hours and Location

Who We Are

Asif is a non-profit organization and culinary center in Tel Aviv dedicated to cultivating and nurturing Israel’s diverse and creative food culture, a joint venture of the New York City-based Jewish Food Society and Tel Aviv’s Start-Up Nation Central.

Our aim is to explore local food culture and provide a home for research, dialogue, and a wide range of culinary experiences. Through a library with 1500+ culinary books, revolving exhibitions, cooking workshops, a rooftop farm, and pop-ups hosted by local and international chefs, Asif will help document and articulate the evolving Israeli kitchen. The center is open six days a week and everyone is welcome. Stop by for a meal anytime at Cafe Asif, or visit their local deli to pick up artisanal cheeses, olive oils, spices, and wine to enjoy at home. 

At Asif, we believe that food is a central ingredient of culture and identity, both as individuals and communities. Beyond cooking, food enables us to learn about our histories, confront our conflicts, and engage in an open dialogue and difficult conversations.

Set out for a meal in Israel today and you may find bowls of Iraqi kubbeh soup tinged pink with beets or still-warm hummus alongside raw onion, sandwiches of matjes herring and butter or pitas stuffed with schnitzel and pickles, lightly cured fish in verdant olive oil with Mandarin zest, and trays of glazed rugelach. This nascent kitchen is influenced by regional Levantine and local Palestinian traditions, recipes from across the Jewish Diaspora, and a unique terroir. It has deep ties to the diverse histories and traditions that make up the Israeli population, but feels fresh and modern in the hands of home cooks and creative chefs.

Food does not stand alone. Exploring how it relates to history, culture, politics, ecology, fashion, technology, and gender is what guides Asif as a culinary center that encourages innovation.

A Note on Language: The Asif website is currently available in Hebrew and English. Some content is also available in Arabic and we are working to add more. Please check back for updates soon. 

Press: Please send press inquiries to [email protected]

Our Team

Naama Shefi

Founder

Naama Shefi is a kibbutznik and New Yorker, whose work sits at the intersection of food, culture, community building, and art. In 2017, she founded the Jewish Food Society, which preserves and celebrates Jewish culinary heritage through a digital recipe archive and dynamic events. Previously, she curated programs promoting Israeli and Jewish culinary culture through the hit pop-up The Kubbeh Project and the Israeli Consulate in New York. Naama also immersed herself in start-up culture as the marketing director of EatWith, which hosts pop-ups in 160 cities. Food, she believes, is one of the most profound ways to build community. 

“My first bite after touching down in Israel is usually herring. It could be on a fresh baguette at Sherry Herring, or a quick stop before Shabbat at Dorfman at the Carmel Market. In the market, I always make sure to visit Elad for “hetzi manah” or a half portion of falafel. In the evening I head to Abie — a restaurant that personifies what Israeli food can be in 2021.”


Chico Menashe

Executive Director

Chico Menashe was born and raised in Jerusalem, and currently lives in Mevaseret Zion. Until 2020, he held various positions in the Israeli media, beginning as a culture correspondent for Kol Israel’s Reshet Bet, and later working for Channel 2 News (now Hahadashot 12) and as a political correspondent for channel 10 (Channel 13 News). He served as the head of Kol Israel’s Reshet Bet for two years, and later as a deputy director of Kan News, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation. In addition to serving as the CEO of Asif, Menashe is the COO of Start-Up Nation Central. He describes himself as a food enthusiast with a deep interest in the cultural and social discourse of gastronomy.

“I have a special place in my heart and belly for Rama’s Kitchen in Nataf. This is where my wife and I got married, and since then we’ve visited it on special, and less special, occasions. Jasmino has my favorite pita dish, and I also have a soft spot for Mutfak — I believe they serve the best shawarma in town. Every trip to the north of Israel begins with a visit to Tanti Baci, a beloved Italian restaurant, which has managed to serve impeccable Italian cuisine for years.”


Mitchell Davis

Impact Strategy Consultant

From his home in New York City, Mitchell Davis has been an internationally recognized thought leader on food trends and culture for more than 30 years, most recently as Chief Strategy Officer of the James Beard Foundation and as the founder of the Kitchen Sense consultancy. With a degree in Hospitality Management from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Food Studies from New York University, Mitchell has helped create programs to improve restaurant culture, culinary education, accessibility, and sustainability. He is an avid cook who has written five cookbooks. Follow his work on social media @KitchenSense. (Photo: Clay Williams)

“From a late-night pita at Jasmino that drips flavorful juices onto Allenby Street as you bite into it, to the artfully arranged plates of local seafood at Pescado in Ashdod, I can’t get enough of the freshness, generosity, warmth, and sheer deliciousness of Israel’s food scene.”


Shay Li Hearsch

COO

Shay Li grew up in Binyamina running barefoot among pecan and pear trees. For her, moving to Tel Aviv was a breathtaking experience. While training as an actress at Yoram Loewenstein Studio, she visited every restaurant possible. Over the past decade, she’s combined a career in acting with one as an event manager. Today, she’s bringing together that experience with her passion for food at Asif. 

“A perfect evening with friends, for me, is at Batshon, a restaurant located over a great fish shop in Tel Aviv. With my family, I will always find myself at Keton Restaurant for chopped liver with horseradish, cholent, and a bite of schnitzel I sneak from my kids’ plates.”


Matan Choufan

Matan Choufan

Senior Director of Content

Born and raised in Eilat to a Tunisian family, Matan Choufan is a culinary expert and journalist based in Givatayim. He previously worked as the deputy editor at Israel’s premier culinary magazine, HaShulchan and as a regular contributor to Haaretz’s weekend magazine. He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and the Danon Culinary School. Find his writing, recipes, and food photography on his website and Instagram account

“I shop for spices at Habshush, order my organic vegetables from Havivian and love to eat at Brut restaurant — at the bar, of course.”


Guy Ben-Aroush

Culinary Director

Guy was born in Haifa, grew up in the area between the mountains of Jerusalem and the Judean desert, and now lives in Tel Aviv. He worked in leading positions at some of the hottest restaurants in Tel Aviv for over a decade. In recent years, he was a chef and partner in a bar and restaurant on Yavney Street, cooked at private events, worked as a culinary consultant, and collaborated with creators from the design and craft spaces. 

“A night out on the streets of Jerusalem always ended with food on the way home: sambusak pizza at Mifgash haShech, Turkish bourekas near Zion Square or a quick stop for a sesame bagel with za’atar folded in a newspaper. I always felt right at home at the Damascus Gate and in the alleys of the Old City. Inside, there’s a tray of hot knafeh cut with a sharp movement. Behind an ancient church, there is a place called Zalatimo Sweets with a divine filo pastry and cheese. And at the end of the street, there is a small hole in the wall called Kabab al Sha’ab that’s filled with smoke and inside it a juicy kebab.”


Michal Levit

Director of Programs and Innovation

Food writer and culinary curator Michal Levit was born and raised in Tel Aviv in a Latvian-Ukrainian home. She graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy where she also founded a business for gastronomic tours following artisanal producers.  In 2011, she opened Ha’Meorav, a small street food spot from the team behind HaBasta. Her writing has appeared in HaShulchan, Mako, Time Out Tel Aviv, and As Promised. Her articles discussing representations of wild herbs in the Hebrew press, which were published subsequent to her university thesis, appeared in Hebrew, English, and German. Check out her 2018 YouTube series Michal-Love It, which explores the best of Israeli food.

“Whether I’m enjoying bread with ikra and chopped white onions at Pub Amiram in the north of the city, Spanish pastelikos and bouikos at Jerusalem’s Barood, a cool Julius cup and a fresh seafood dish at the Minzar Bar, or Lebanese arak and pastries at AlReda in Nazareth, I have a deep affection for wood-paneled bars that serve plates from all the cultures that comprise Israeli society. And it’s very important to me that the pint of Guinness served alongside them is served cold.”


Gerda Glezer

Content Manager

Gerda was born in Latvia and immigrated to Israel when she was little. She grew up and studied in Jerusalem, wandering around, and eating her way through the alleys of the Old City and the neighborhoods of Nachlaot and Mea Shearim. After graduating with a degree in sociology and communications, she began training as a food journalist and fell in love with food writing. Before joining Asif, she worked at the website Walla, HaShulchan magazine, and Haaretz, and managed content for commercial companies.

“Good food, hype, or atmosphere alone are not enough for me. I like the places where everything works together effortlessly — like a heart-expanding lunch at Ibn Ezra, good local wine and thoughtful dishes at the bar at Dok, or a bustling city night at 85/15. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the food scene in Haifa at the wonderful restaurants scattered around the Talpiot market and at Raseef 33 and Libira Brewpub in the lower city.”  


Jenny Shapira

Jenny Shapira

Production Coordinator

Jenny grew up in Tiberias and has always been overly excited by a well stuffed pita. As a flight attendant, she spent thousands of hours flying around the world, growing more and more curious about food, how it’s represented in different cultures and the path it takes to reach the plate. She worked as a foreign books buyer for Steimatzky and at Similarweb before finding the courage to pursue a career in food. Jenny graduated from Tel Aviv University and has lived in the city for close to a decade.

“There’s something about the Carmel Market that captivates me, whether it’s visiting the lovely Ezra and his vegetable stall, enjoying a shawarma masterpiece at Mifgash Rambam, or a dish from Carmel — especially the chicken with lamb fat, which is really something special. Outside of the market, when we feel like indulging, I go to Dok and sit at the bar. It’s always so delicious, smart, and seasonal.”


Aya Zlotnikov

Aya Zlotnikov

Librarian

Aya was born and raised in Rehovot — back when there were still orchards around the city. She has a masters in literature and museum studies from Tel Aviv University and completed her library studies at David Yellin College in Jerusalem. She worked in museum archives as well as public and academic libraries before joining Asif where she works in the only culinary library of its kind in Israel. 

“I moved to Tel Aviv the week the COVID-19 lockdown began. I got to know it little by little, between the closing of one restaurant and the opening of another. The best bite near my home is in the Tikva Market at Hummus Fuls, which belongs to the husband of a dear librarian friend. And even though I live in Tel Aviv, my favorite cup of coffee is still in Rehovot at the Hanut Cafe on Ehad Ha’am Street, where I spent a lot of time as a student. If I feel like a good cup of hot chocolate in Rehovot, I go to Bruno’s, which is nearby on Ya’akov Street.” 


Emanuel Antonio Fragna

Emanuel Antonio Fragna

Manager at Cafe Asif

Emanuel’s father is from Italy and his mother is from Jerusalem. His father was a restaurateur in Tel Aviv, so he grew up in a house full of pots, pans, and guests. Everything in his personal life was connected to the dinner table. In his professional life, he worked through nearly every restaurant department there is, from washing dishes to running the bar and managing restaurants. Over the years, he worked at several top local restaurants including Toto, Shila, and George & John.   

“I like to spend time at Toto because it feels like home for me and chef Yaron Shalev is the greatest professional I know. I like his style and precision; and it’s fun to be a guest there. I also really like Shimon the Soup King near the Carmel Market. The soups are delicious and the place has a nice atmosphere. Beyond that, I like to cook at home.”


Erez Pinhas

Erez Pinhas

Head Chef

Chef Erez Pinhas was born and raised in Rehovot, and now calls Tel Aviv home. He began his culinary career at two renowned restaurants: Haim Cohen and Irit Shenkar’s Keren, and Yoezer Wine Bar. On a trip to South America he met his future wife, and the two opened an American coffee shop in Santiago, Chile. In 2000, they opened Abba, a seafood and meat restaurant on Cape Cod, which they owned and operated for 21 years. The couple also founded a company specializing in culinary tours to Israel. Erez returned to Israel in 2021 and has been the chef of Cafe Asif since its opening. 

“I love cooking and sharing meals from a variety of kitchens with friends and family, and I love hosting at home. When I crave some tasty falafel, I head to Dr. Saadia on King George Street in Tel Aviv. Up north, I like to eat hummus at Sohila (also known as Abu Sohil restaurant) in the Akko Turkish Bazaar. Another favorite spot is Nalchik in Rehaniya, where they serve mejamac — a sort of Circassian mujadara — with plenty of lentils and a special spice mix. I am also addicted to goat milk yogurt from Bra Cheese at the Pelter Winery.”


Devra Ferst

Editorial & Strategic Consultant

Devra Ferst is a food writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. A former editor at Eater and Tasting Table, her food and travel reporting has also appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Food & Wine, NPR, and numerous other publications. She is currently the editor of the Jewish Food Society, which preserves and celebrates Jewish family recipes from around the world. When she’s not writing (and it’s safe to travel again), you can find her exploring produce markets from Odessa to Bangkok. 

“Whenever I visit Israel, I head straight for cheese-filled bourekas at Bourekas Levinsky, a gazoz at Cafe Levinsky 41 and a year’s worth of za’atar from Habshush in Tel Aviv and Elbabour in Nazareth.”


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Photo by Amir Menachem