Panelist Biographies

Listed in Alphabetical Order: 


Abbie Rosner is a culinary historian and author. She has extensively researched and written about the traditional foodways of the Galilee, in ancient, Biblical, and contemporary times.  She has published articles in Gastronomica and Wine Spectator, among others, and a blog: Galilee Seasonality ( Rosner’s culinary memoir, Breaking Bread in Galilee – A Culinary Journey into the Promised Land, documents the region’s disappearing foodways and brings to life an often hidden population. She has also spoken at many venues internationally including the 14th Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, and the 92nd Street Y.


Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor and recipes editor of award-winning Washington Post Food section, where she writes weekly and monthly columns and gets to work with the best chefs and food experts in the business — including the ones on tonight’s panel. She became a fan of Israel’s cuisine and its food production in 2010, about 10 minutes into a 5-meals-a-day trip with Israeli-born caterer Vered Guttman.


Dorothy Kalins is a book producer and magazine consultant. She was founding editor of the National Magazine Award-winning Metropolitan Home and Saveur magazines. She later became executive editor of Newsweek and helped direct its award-winning coverage of  9/11. Kalins was the first woman named Adweek’s Editor of the Year.  She has received the prestigious Matrix Award, was named Exceptional Woman in Publishing by EWIP, and inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in Food & Beverage. Kalins has co-edited eight books developed from her magazines. At Dorothy Kalins Ink, she produced and edited numerous books by award-winning authors and chefs including Zahav, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, James Beard Foundation 2016 Cookbook of the Year by the Beard Foundation, and the team’s Federal Donuts book (September 2017). The team’s third book, based on their version of Israeli street food, will appear in fall, 2018.


Einat Admony is chef and owner of Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat, Taïm, and (coming soon) Kish-Kash, serving North African Jewish cuisine and the first ever Moroccan couscous bar in New York.  Admony is also the author of Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love (2013, Artisan/Workman Publishing Company). After army service and travel, Admony moved to New York City where she worked at “a million venerable kitchens around the city,” according to The New Yorker. Inspired by the street food of her native Tel Aviv, Admony opened the falafel joint Taïm (tah·eem) in Manhattan’s West Village in 2005. In 2010, she launched Balaboosta in Nolita, where the food is not so much Middle Eastern as Mediterranean. Bar Bolonat, a West Village eatery named one of the best new restaurants of 2014 by New York Times critic Pete Wells.


Johanna Mendelson Forman is an adjunct professor and scholar in residence in AU’s School of International Service where she teaches the interdisciplinary course, “Conflict Cuisine: An Introduction to War and Peace around the Dinner Table.” She is a leading voice in the emerging discipline of social gastronomy, seeing the kitchen as the new venue of foreign policy. This grows out of over three decades of work on post-conflict transition, civil-military relations, and democratization, concentrating on the Americas as well as extensive field experience in the US government on transition initiatives in Haiti, Iraq, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her work has been published widely, and she is a frequent guest on programs such as NPR’s Kitchen Sisters and The Salt and lectures on food-related topics for the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as a distinguished fellow and director of food security at the Stimson Center, a Washington, DC think tank.


Laura Katz Cutler is managing director of the Center for Israel Studies at American University. A former commercial banker with Wells Fargo Bank, Cutler is a community activist and active member of the Washington, DC, Jewish community, where she has been a tireless advocate for innovation in Jewish education. She is past chair of the board of PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values and was a founding board member of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning. She holds a masters degree in international relations from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.


Lior Lev Sercarz is a chef, spice blender and, since 2006, owner of La Boîte, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City. Sercaraz has been featured in publications including The New York Times,  Vogue, In Style Magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Food & Wine Magazine and the SAVEUR 100.  In 2011, he started La Boîte Biscuits & Spices, an art gallery and spice shop in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Sercarz works closely with chefs from around the world, developing custom blends for them and for other customers. His 2012 cookbook, The Art of Blending, features 41 blends along with recipes and cooking tips provided by renowned chefs and culinary minds including Gail Simmons, Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and Apollonia Poilâne. His second book, The Spice Companion (Clarkson Potter, 2016), is a distillation of his 30 years of experience featuring an illustrated guide to 102 spices, complete with blends and recipe ideas.


Michael Brenner  is American University’s Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and director of the AU Center for Israel Studies. He is also a professor of Jewish History and Culture at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich and international president of the Leo Baeck Institute. His books, which have been translated into ten languages, include A Short History of the JewsProphets of the Past: Interpreters of Jewish HistoryZionism: A Brief History; and After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany.  His new book traces the attempts to normalize Jewish history with the establishment of a Jewish state.


Michael Solomonov is the executive chef and co-owner of Philadelphia’s pioneering Israeli restaurant, Zahav, and winner of the 2017 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef. Previously, he was named the 2011 James Beard Award Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic, and the 2016 winner for Best International Cookbook and Book of the Year for Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, written with his business partner/co-author Steven Cook. In addition to his duties at Zahav, Solomonov co-owns Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Goldie, Federal Donuts and the philanthropic Rooster Soup Company, which donates 100% of its profits to Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative that provides meals and essential services to individuals experiencing homelessness and hunger in Philadelphia. Solomonov was featured in the award-winning film In Search of Israeli Cuisine and, in 2017, he and the Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) created a partnership to champion Israel’s extraordinarily diverse and vibrant culinary landscape.


Mitchell Davis is the executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, a cookbook author, a journalist, and a scholar with a PhD in Food Studies from NYU. With the Beard Foundation for almost 25 years, Davis has created and overseen many of the organization’s most impactful initiatives, including the annual JBF Food Summit on sustainability and public health, the JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and the JBF Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program intended to correct the gender imbalance in leadership in the restaurant industry. In 2013, Davis led the team that was selected by the US Department of State to create the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 for which he received commendations from First Lady Michelle Obama and other government officials. Davis has written several cookbooks, including the e-book My Provence (Alta Editions) with Michelin three-star chef Laurent Gras, which won the IACP’s “Judges’ Choice” award in 2013, and The Mensch Chef (Clarkson Potter, 2002). In 2013, The Forward selected Davis as one of the 50 most influential Jews under 50 in America.


Nir Avieli is a cultural anthropologist and the president of the Israeli Anthropological Association. He is an associate professor at the department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University, Israel. Avieli has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An since 1998. His book, Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town (2012, Indiana University Press), is a culinary ethnography of Hoi An. His second book, Food and Power in Israel (University of California Press 2017), is based on multi-sited ethnography conducted in Israel since the late 1990s. Avieli convened the International Conference on “Food, Power and Meaning in the Middle East and Mediterranean” at Ben Gurion University in 2010 and edited two special issues for the journals Food, Culture and Society and Hagar. Currently, Avieli is preparing a new ethnographic project on “Food and Power in the Margins of Europe.”


Orit Rozin is an associate professor in the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. Her research interests and publications focus on the social, legal, and cultural history of the Israeli state and society, including the book A Home for all Jews: Citizenship, Rights and National Identity in the New Israeli State (Brandeis University Press, 2016). The Hebrew version of her book, The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israel: A Challenge to Collectivism, (Brandeis University Press, 2011), published earlier, received the Association for Israel Studies’ Shapiro Best Book Award in 2009. She published work deals primarily with  Israeli legislation and ruling; the relations between policy-makers and the media, and between immigrants and old-timers; gender issues; security issues and various aspects of quotidian life which reflect and mold national identity, such as hygiene, parenthood, childhood and food consumption. Rozin is currently working on a new manuscript: A History of Fear: Israelis in the Shadow of War, 1949-1967.


Osama Dalal is a chef and restaurateur. Growing up in the fishing town of Acre/Akko, his love of food was awakened by midnight fishing trips with his father, walks to school through the old market and, most of all, by his grandmother. Cooking with his grandmother was Dalal’s version of culinary school.  Using his family recipes re-imagined into creative small plates, he opened his first restaurant, a tapas joint, inside the old Turkish bazaar in Acre. When he noticed that many of his customers were day-trippers from Tel Aviv, Dalal decided to open a restaurant, Maiar, in that city. In Maiar, Dalal developed a coherent culinary tone, influenced by his roots and inspired by his hometown. The cuisine relies on tradition, history and memory, rather than just following recipes, all the while using contemporary techniques – the core idea being, the flavor is above all.


Rafi Grosglik is a visiting assistant professor and an Israel Institute Teaching Fellow, located in the Department of Sociology, UC Davis. He earned his PhD from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, after which he received the Jonathan Shapira Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Tel-Aviv University. Most recently, he held a research fellowship with the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University and taught at Boston University. His areas of interest include sociology of food, globalization, consumption and popular culture, environmental sociology, and Israeli society. His articles on food and society have been published in the Journal of Consumer Culture; Food, Culture and Society; Israeli Sociology among others. In addition, he is a guest co-editor of a special issue on food and power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean in Food, Culture & Society and a special issue on environment and society in Israel in Israeli Sociology. His recent publications include: Organic Food in Israel – Resistance, Assimilation and Global Culture (Resling Publishing Press, 2017, Hebrew).


Roger Sherman, a founder of Florentine Films, is a producer, director, cinematographer, still photographer, and author. His films have won an Emmy, a Peabody, a James Beard Award, and two Academy Award nominations. Charlie Rose called his film Alexander Calder, “an extraordinary American masterpiece.” Dorothy Rabinowitz said in The Wall Street Journal said that Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds, another American Masters special, was “perhaps the best film ever produced in the American Masters PBS series.” Kat Kinsman, writing for CNN’s Eatocracy, said of The Restaurateur, a portrait of Danny Meyer, “Beg, borrow as needed, but do yourself a favor and see Roger Sherman’s doc.” In 2016, he wrote, directed and filmed the award-winning In Search of Israeli Cuisine.  His book Ready, Steady, Shoot: A Pro’s Guide to Smartphone Video was written for the millions of people who need help recording their lives on video.


Ronald Ranta is a former chef and a senior lecturer in International Relations and Politics at Kingston University London. His research focuses primarily on nationalism, food, and the politics of identity through three broad areas of interest. The first area, which grew out of his PhD on the Arab-Israeli conflict, examines Israeli national identity and food and their relationship with Palestinian identity and food. The second area, examines how, in relation to globalization, food is conceptualized and promoted as a national entity. Finally, he is involved in a research project looking at the perceptions and challenges of belonging among EU nationals in the UK and how these manifest in food culture. His most recent books include Food, National Identity and Nationalism: From the Everyday to the Global (co-authored with Atsuko Ichijo, Palgrave, 2016) and From the Arab Other to the Israeli Self: Palestinian Culture in the Making of Israeli National Identity  (co-authored with Yonatan Mendel, Ashgate, 2016).


Ronit Vered is a researcher of food culture, a journalist, and author of food and travel books. Her column with photographer Dan Peretz engages with local food traditions and has appeared weekly since 2007 in Haaretz. Her articles have been published in numerous culinary magazines and books, in Israel and elsewhere. Ronit is a frequent lecturer and moderator of international panels on themes relating to cuisines and identity, food and politics, the Jewish kitchen, and the flourishing of Israeli cuisine. In the past few years she has also been involved in culinary curation, creating artistic-culinary programs for cultural institutions, including the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Polish Cultural Institute, and in culinary consulting to TV shows and publishers.



Susan Barocas is a food writer, teacher, chef and caterer as well as a documentary film producer and writer. A member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, she was the founding director of the Jewish Food Experience and its award-winning website. Her writing has also appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Moment and Lilith magazines. Susan was honored to serve as the guest chef for the White House Passover Seders in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In her film pursuits, she is the former director of the Washington Jewish Film Festival and the Women in Film and Video International Festival. She consults with festivals and filmmakers on outreach and community building, and directed the award-winning national outreach program for National Geographic’s 3D giant screen film Jerusalem.  


Tom Franz was attracted to Israeli culture since he was a Catholic teenager in Germany. His fascination resulted in his leaving a successful career as a lawyer, moving to Tel Aviv and converting to Judaism at the age of 30. Eight years later, in 2013, Franz won the cooking show Masterchef 2013, combining traditional German food with Kosher gourmet cooking. He has a passion for making kosher cuisine upscale and is known all over Israel and Germany as a culinary ambassador and bridge builder between his former and his current environments. He appears often on television cooking programs in Germany and Israel, has authored two successful cookbooks, and is a presenter for a variety of culinary companies.


Yael Raviv is the director of the Umami Food and Art Festival and director of business development at Splacer Inc., a company dedicated to sharing the thoughtful use of space resources. She is the author of Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). Yael received her PhD from New York University’s Performance Studies Department and her research, writing and teaching focus on food and national identity, and food and art.



Dr. Yahil Zaban is on the faculty of Humanities at Tel Aviv University. His main research subjects are Jewish food culture, food and literature, and Jewish enlightenment literature. He is the author of The Choicest Meal: Food and Sexuality in Jewish Enlightenment Literature (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2014) and  Land of Milk and Hummus: A Study of Israeli Culinary Culture (Afik Books, 201


Click Here to View the Conference Schedule.

Click Here to View the Event Photo Album.



Return to Event Reflection. 


Panelist Biographies and Photos Provided by the AU Center for Israel Studies.