A friend tells me that Chef Eric Ripert from “Le Bernadin” restaurant in NYC was on Top Chef this week, and the six remaining contestants were asked to duplicate one of the items on his menu, and one of the dishes was “zaatar-crusted monkfish”.
My fellow citizens, I think that we have finally arrived.
A few years ago, aspiring celebrity chefs couldn’t get enough of “ras el-hanout” a spice blend particularly prevalent in North Africa. One also saw harissa popping up on menus, along with fusion-ified couscous, hummus, tabbouleh and other dishes, all of which, by the way, are originally Israeli. 100% Yessiree.
But the presence of zaatar at Le Bernandin and on Top Chef means that Lebanon has finally gotten its foot in the door of the elite international culinary scene, and it’ll only be a matter of time before the French Laundry and the Gramercy Tavern are serving up mulukhiyeh, laban immo, and malfouf mihshe. Of course, they’ll probably call them Israeli mulukhiyeh, Israeli laban immo, and Israeli malfouf mihshe, but who cares? We’ll know the truth.
Ahhh, zaatar… I’m so proud of you. Crusting a monkfish with the best of ’em. Rubbing shoulders with all those bland panko, parmesan, sesame, and chili-cilantro-macadamia herb mixes. You’ve done us proud. I now know that I can walk into any restaurant in the world, look at a menu and say: “You see that guy there? Zaatar? Yeah, he’s one of us. He’s Lebanese.”
Until they change your name to Israeli zaatar.