Chef Noam brings good heart, Yemenite flavors to Queens
by Michael Perlman
Apr 08, 2020 | 4946 views | 0 0 comments | 105 105 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“I ask that we all do that we can in our power to help each other during these harsh times," urges Chef Noam Reuven Bakin, a Rego Park resident who has been providing food to hardworking healthcare professionals at local hospitals, as well as delivering face masks to local residents in need.

Food safety is of the utmost importance, and not just during a pandemic, Chef Noam said.

“All chefs and even home cooks should make sure to have a completely sanitized surface, clean utensils, and good hygiene, including properly washed hands,” he said. “Whenever you’re preparing food for others, you should have gloves on. All chefs should be wearing masks as well during the pandemic.”

He hopes residents will continue to support small businesses.

“Even with takeout and delivery options, restaurant owners are surely taking a hit,” Bakin said.

Chef Noam is a Los Angeles transplant who has been working in kitchens since the age of 12. He was recently the opening head chef at Mezze Kosher Mediterranean Restaurant & Pizzeria at 100-18 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, but left in January to pursue independent projects as a chef. Soon, he will be the head chef at the soon-to-open Mezze Prime Grill at 97-19 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park.

Chef Noam founded Noam’s Hummus, which provides gourmet hummus, as well as other gluten-free and vegan dishes. He remains very connected to his Yemenite Jewish roots.

“My mother is an Israeli folk dancer and choreographer and also performed Yemenite henna ceremonies, which is when I first became involved in the kitchen,” he said. “I would witness amazing music, dancing, and food, from a variety of delicious breads to turmeric-stained chicken cooked for hours in savory spices.”

His company, Zabari Catering, works with high-quality ingredients imported from the Middle East, and offers catering for a diverse clientele and includes Glatt kosher food.

For a few years, Chef Noam took a break from the kitchen to pursue bodybuilding.

“Not that all bodybuilders eat this way, but I stayed away from gluten, MSG, processed oils and other unnatural foods,” he said of his diet. “Ninety percent of my soups are naturally gluten-free, as much Middle Eastern food naturally is. Food can definitely be good for you and delicious.”

Chef Noam adapts his cooking to meet changing tastes and cultural and religious traditions.

“My goal is to please as many people as possible,” he said. “I firmly believe that when you are served food, it should be delicious without anything being added to it by the customer. At the same time, some people enjoy it with a more intense flavor, whereas others are sensitive to spice and in some cases salt. With time, you learn how to create food that's not aggressively seasoned or too bland.”

His favorite dish is “marak,” or soup.

“In the Yemeni kitchen, the meal almost always begins with a bowl of piping hot broth,” he said. “It can be made from chicken, beef, and most traditionally lamb. I prepare the stock from bones and add the desired choice of meat. It’s topped with a whipped fenugreek and Yemeni chutney.”

Chef Noam is grateful for the chefs he worked for and learned from, in addition to his mother who inspired him to pursue a career in the kitchen.

“When my grandfather died at 92, something hit me and I felt the need to reconnect to my roots,” he said. “The best way was through cooking.

“My father is truly the most selfless human being I’ve known in my life,” he added. “He has always supported my dreams and believed in me no matter what. I hope I can say that I take after him when it comes to doing well for others.”

Chef Noam has some advice for people who would like to pursue a career in the culinary business.

“Experience is everything,” he said. “I've worked under chefs who never stepped foot in a culinary institution, and yet were amazing cooks and leaders with tons of professional experience and knowledge. “If you love it, always know that with hard work you will accomplish your goals. I'm still young and have lots to learn, as do all chefs.”

Chef Noam Bakin can be contacted at (718) 314-2659 or through zabaricatering.com.
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