Born in Israel to Moroccan parents – mother from Casablanca and a father from Marrakech – it’s not surprising that Ronit Robbaz’s upbringing revolved around food culture.
‘I come from a large family where all affairs happened around the table,’ says Ronit. ‘There was always a hearty, passionate celebration taking place. A dramatic affair with family and friends. I have four sisters and a brother, so I grew up with feisty, colourful and vibrant women around me who cared for and empowered me.’
Ronit left Israel when she was 20 after her military service and travelled the world. ‘These were my gypsy nomadic years, living in India, Japan, South East Asia, and Latin America for almost 10 years before arriving on the shores of Byron Bay about 24 years ago.’
Ronit’s mother was a chef specialising in pastry. ‘I used to hang around the kitchen between simmering pots and pans, baking trays, and delicious aromas. My passion for food as a celebration, entertainment, and bringing people together is the result of my Moroccan–Israeli heritage. I studied cooking and apprenticed under the guiding eyes of professional chefs in Israel, Japan, Europe, and Brazil. While I travelled I picked up and learned traditional food practices from home cooks, cheeky mammas and tribal elders who carried a wonderful heritage of foraging and food culture. I studied nutrition and wellness in the institute of IIN in NY and worked in a few restaurants before I started my own catering business Open Table almost 18 years ago.’
The book is influenced by all of these things. ‘I always wanted to write and book so I collated my recipes and created a book as a gift to my family, my community of former and current students and clients throughout the years.’
The book is a combination of new and tried and tested mainstays. ‘I have added well-loved recipes, which are the flagship dishes of Open Table and some recipes from the popular cooking workshops and some brand-new recipes inspired by the produce in the garden and from my travels are there as well.
‘The book is the culmination of my food journey and is divided into five parts: the Middle East, India, the Mediterranean, Latin America, and the Moorish region. These places I lived in, worked in, and explored as a New Age nomadic gypsy who just so happens to cook damn good food.
‘I was thrilled to have had a super-talented women’s team creating the book with me – Fran Flynn, brilliant food photographer and designer; the ever-talented food stylist Sarah DeNardi; and Rachael Lane, uber-professional recipe and food editor. My dear friend Vita Marguin came on board to draft and recreate the introductions of each chapter. And there are a few other guest photographers like Donatella Parisini, Nina Gibbs, and Kate Holmes.’
Ronit says there are still countries she’d like to explore. ‘I would have loved to visit Iran and Afghanistan and experience their rich culture, moreover the diverse food on offer, – I am hoping it will happen this lifetime.
To find out more about the book and where you can purchase a copy,