New Jersey Chef Meny Vaknin Participates in Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals

Citymeals on Wheels is a non-profit organization offering the homebound elderly nutritious meals and essential companionship for the past 35 years.

On Monday June 12, the organization hosts its 32nd Annual Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals event at Rockefeller Center. The star-studded evening will feature over 40 internationally renowned chefs showcasing Mediterranean cuisine and culture. In 2016, Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals raised over $900,000, subsidizing over 140,000 meals.

New Jersey Well Represented

Chef Meny Vaknin of MishMish Café in Montclair will be one of the participating chefs at Chefs’ Tribute. The acclaimed New Jersey Chef will be preparing his favorite Mediterranean-inspired concoction: pulled lamb over saffron with cauliflower cream and herb tahini.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Chef Vaknin our Chef Spotlight questions, and learned about his commitment to this worthy cause.

JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
VAKNIN: Soft boiled eggs with bread in a cup for dinner, best eggs I’ve ever had!

When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career?
Since I was a kid really, but more so after I finished the military service in Israel. Then I really decided after working for six years in NYC before going to culinary school.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve had?
Had an amazing meal in Tulum, Mexico. It was very simple but so fresh and flavorful. We had grilled prawns over some herbed potatoes, fried calamari—the best I’ve ever had—and a seafood ceviche. Very inspiring.

What is your cooking style?
I love mixing my childhood flavors with the traditional French cuisine, which I was trained for. They come together beautifully and create an instant eating experience.

How did you decide to get involved with Citymeals?
I think it’s a great cause. I am very grateful for everything I have in life so I’m happy for every opportunity I have to give back, more so if it is through food.

We see you’ve decided to make pulled lamb over saffron with cauliflower cream and herb tahini for the upcoming 32nd Annual Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals event on Monday, June 12, at Rockefeller Center. Why did you chose that dish?
Lamb is my favorite protein to work with. This dish represents my cuisine and the flavors I grew up with.

Participating chefs include Daniel Boulud, Jacques Torres, Markus Glocker, and Michael Psilakis. A complete list can be found here.

Tickets to the event can be purchased here.

More About Citymeals on Wheels

Citymeals was founded in 1981 by longtime New York magazine restaurant critic, Gael Greene, and legendary cookbook author and teacher, James Beard, after learning thousands of their older neighbors had nothing to eat on weekends, holidays, and in times of emergency. Now in its 35th year of serving homebound elderly New Yorkers, Citymeals has delivered over 54 million meals throughout the five boroughs, providing a lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to seniors in need. Working in partnership with community-based organizations and senior centers, Citymeals prepares and delivers over 2 million meals for more than 18,000 of their frail aged neighbors each year. The organization has also maintained a fundamental promise since its founding: 100% of all public donations are used entirely for the preparation and delivery of meals.

Beth Shapiro has worked with Citymeals since 2006, the last five as executive director, and during this time has overseen an increase in volunteer hours by 68%, including individual, corporate and culinary industry volunteerism. She has also launched Chefs Deliver, which takes some of the city’s best chefs out of their kitchens to deliver specially prepared meals to their frail aged neighbors, reestablished the Citymeals Young Professionals Committee, expanded online fundraising, and oversaw the increase in the number of meals delivered and elderly nourished.