Galilee chef brings it here

Morris Zrihen to oversee meal for local women’s Seder

By Masada Siegel, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

Following your passion can be daunting, especially when you’ve spent years studying engineering and your gut tells you to become a chef. Morris Zrihen followed his feelings and it led him on a journey which eventually brought him to open his restaurant, The Breakfast Club, at Moshav Shavei Zion, along the Mediterranean coast between Acco and Nahariya in Israel’s north.

Morris Zrihen
Morris Zrihen

“It’s a bistro restaurant that serves breakfast at all hours of the day with no limit,” he says. “We realized people like eating breakfast at any time of day. The menu is very varied and multicultural. There are all different kinds of breakfasts and every ethnic group has its characteristic one. For example the Baghdad Breakfast includes roasted eggplant, hard-boiled egg, tahini, fresh herbs and vegetables, a tribute to the traditional sabich. In the Scandinavian Breakfast, we have chosen smoked salmon, poached eggs, brioche and Hollandaise sauce.”

Zrihen will oversee food preparations (kosher) for the JCC’s interpretive model Seder, Women’s Voices: A Passover Journey, on March 26 at the Boonshoft CJCE.

His trip to the United States is sponsored by Partnership2Gether, a program of Jewish Federations and the Jewish Agency for Israel to promote people-to-people relationships among American Jews and Israelis.

Dayton and 11 other communities in the central United States are in Partnership2Gether with the Western Galilee.

Zrihen’s desire to become a chef started in college, where he studied building engineering. To supplement his income, he worked in a restaurant at night. That’s when he realized he wasn’t on the right career path. He still followed through on his education and became a building engineer.

At the conclusion of a big project, he realized his work didn’t inspire him. He quit and took time to reflect on his passions. A short trip to India gave him clarity and courage; he then applied for a position as a restaurant chef.

Following a decade in the industry, the self-taught Zrihen enrolled at the Dan Gourmet Cooking School, where he received a chef’s diploma.

“For me,” he says, “food and cooking are passion, innovation, a fascinating world, international communication, aromas of home and earth and sea and nature, cultures, knowledge and science, love and romance, people, family — and can be summed up as the whole of human experience.”

Zrihen, who came from a Moroccan home, says his mother’s cuisine was the source of this passion.

“When I was a child, my mother cooked for a family who had enough money and were accustomed to employing a private cook,” he says. “One day a customer entered my kitchen and recognized me as the son of his cook when he was a child. He complimented me on the meal, and was moved by having come full circle. I was as moved as he was, and I again understood that I was in the right place.”

Having a positive impact on his customers’ lives is what Zrihen says he strives for.

When asked what brings joy to his everyday work, he says, “At the end of the day, when I understand that far more people have visited the restaurant than the previous day and more people have enjoyed themselves.”

The chef celebrates food as a way for people to establish and remember meaningful moments.

“Every holiday is exciting, if only because of its characteristic food. We choose the appropriate food for events whether summer or winter, a birthday or even a funeral. Therefore in my view, even food has a philosophical significance.”

In Dayton, he’ll lead a small group of volunteers to prepare dishes that will focus on the flavors of Israel’s Galilee region.

Zrihen says his favorite flavorings to use in his kitchen are Atlantic salt, high quality black pepper, young Israeli olive oil, and fresh lemon.

“The spice without which I can never cook excellent food,” he adds, “is the love for the profession.”

Chef Morris Zrihen’s cuisine will be featured at Women’s Voices: A Passover Journey on Thursday, March 26, 6-9 p.m. at the Boonshoft CJCE, 525 Versailles Dr., Centerville. The model Seder is sponsored by the JCC in collaboration with the Jewish Federation’s Partnership2Gether program and women from Dayton’s synagogues. The cost is $18. R.S.V.P. by March 18 to Karen Steiger at 610-1555 or  

To read the complete March 2015 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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