Natalie Marsh speaks to Ori Shavit, food writer at Vegans On Top.
Q. Why did you start your vegan food blog?
A. I was very far from veganism before. I was a food writer and a full-time foodie, and that was always my main passion. I went on a date with a guy more than eight years ago and he was vegan. At that time, Israel was a vegan desert. There was a lot of vegan food, but it wasn’t a culinary thing. I was curious because I was a journalist. I started to understand what was happening in the livestock industry and discovered the health and environmental benefits, and pretty quickly, I decided to change everything. I want to prove that you can be a foodie, even if you’re a vegan. My blog’s English name is ‘Vegans on Top’ but the explanation in Hebrew actually translates as ‘Vegan girls have more fun’.
“I started to understand what was happening in the livestock industry and discovered the health and environmental benefits, and pretty quickly, I decided to change everything.”
Q. How much has the vegan food scene grown in Israel?
A. I call it a revolution because it happened so fast. I started to collaborate with chefs that I knew and asked them to make food for me. I said: “Let’s have a 100% vegan dinner at your restaurant – no regular menu, just plant-based food.” They accepted the challenge, as it was an opportunity to show what amazing food they can make. There was more demand than they expected.
Ori’s top tip
Take the opportunity to talk about the variety of different tastes and cultures – there’s a huge range of foods for such a small country. You can eat from every nation and from every culture, even in a short visit. That’s the most exciting thing about eating in Israel.
Q. How is food tourism growing in popularity?
A. I think food has become a much bigger part of our lifestyle. People look at food as a cultural thing, and when you travel somewhere, you want to discover the local cuisine. Restaurants are part of the history, culture and habits of the locals.
Q. Why do you think Israel is a good vegan destination?
A. First, Israel is a nation of immigrants. We come from all over the world, with different cuisines, so I think Israelis are open to trying new things. We’re a sunny, Mediterranean country; the Mediterranean diet is not that far from veganism. We cook with olive oil and a lot of vegetables, and we have hummus and falafel. People don’t think about it, but they eat a lot of vegan food. It’s going back to our roots; it’s not as if we’re inventing anything new. You don’t need to look for vegan options – they’re everywhere. Not only is the percentage of vegans high, but people are also reducing their consumption of animal products and looking for plant-based options, even if they’re not 100% vegan.
“We have great wines in Israel today and it’s great to see the small, boutique wineries, which are spread all around the country.”
Q. How much has the wine industry grown in Israel over the past few years?
A. The wine industry has become very strong. It’s not a question of trying to be what we are not, but doing the best with what we have. We have great wines in Israel today and it’s great to see the small, boutique wineries, which are spread all around the country. It’s interesting to see how the industry has evolved, because 20 years ago, there was nothing special to say about Israeli wines, whereas today, they are amazing. We’re very proud of our wine industry.
Q. What should agents know when selling foodie holidays?
A. What I hear from people who travel to Israel is that they are amazed by the food, even the simplest dishes. I think people should arrive open-minded and expect casual dining. There are fine-dining restaurants but not as many as before. In most restaurants, it’s common to share plates and to eat in a less formal manner.