Alexis Sicklick is a Junior Sous Chef at Aquavit in New York City and went on Birthright Israel in summer 2019 with her sister Tori. Her trip inspired her so much that she is hosting a Birthright Israel themed Pop-Dinner, Experiencing the Deliciousness of Israel, on Monday, November 18, 2019, in New York City (Sign Up Here!). The dinner will include five courses, each paired with wine inspired by her Birthright Israel adventure! When we at Birthright Israel Foundation heard about her pop-up dinner, we couldn’t wait to speak to Alexis. Check out our interview below:
Why did you choose to go on a Birthright Israel trip anyway?
I wanted to connect with my Jewish history and culture in a more tangible way and visit my Jewish homeland to understand all its glory. I specifically chose the Food and Culture one so that I could also gain more exposure to the cuisine and other arts, as that is what I am passionate about in life. Additionally, while I consider myself a conservative Jew, I don’t have the opportunity to practice my religion or explore Jewish culture much in the city because I’m usually working, so when I had the summer off due to restaurant renovations, I knew this was the perfect time to finally commit to the trip and reconnect with Judaism in a stronger way.
How did Birthright Israel inspire you as a chef?
The food in Israel is full of such diverse, prominent flavors and takes influence from so many surrounding countries. I like to cook with a contemporary fusion style (including inspiration/combinations from as many cultures as possible), so the array of techniques and flexibility of/openness to ingredients really fits my perspective well. The intense connection to nature and local access to a great deal of amazing fresh produce is so incredible and something I want to further explore personally, even though I am based in a city that does not provide this type of experience in a simple manner.
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
The country itself has so much to explore despite being so small, and 10 days is nowhere near enough time to truly understand how special of a place Israel is for religion, culture, and personal gain. Every destination had something new to offer in beauty and knowledge, and I loved watching one area transition into the next on the bus, as well as seeing how it does not take long at all to get around.
Can you describe something you learned about?
The open-air markets are so cool, and I wish I had the opportunity to do a tour in each one to really understand what they had to offer. While I did taste and see some fantastic things, there is so much more that I did not know about and would have loved to have more time to visit. Each vendor had such dedicated people perfecting their craft, and I so enjoyed seeing them in action and getting to taste their pride and joy. And each market is so different as well – they all have so many unique products and experiences that I cannot have anywhere else, and I hope I can go back soon to quench my thirst for their deliciousness and intrigue.