Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer are living a foodie fairy tale. A little over a decade ago, the chefs met while working in the same kitchen in a restaurant in Israel. Since then, the two got married, moved to London, cooked under phenom Yotam Ottolenghi, and, in 2013, opened Honey & Co, a Middle Eastern restaurant of their own--which won the Guardian’s Observer Food Monthly’s Best Newcomer award, and quickly became one of London’s most buzzed-about eateries.
Last year, they released their debut cookbook, Honey & Co, named the Best Food Book of the Year by the Sunday Times. And in May, the culinary couple will be publishing it in the U.S. with Little, Brown.
We talked to the pair about how food brought them together, opening a restaurant, and writing a cookbook that reflects how they both approach foodmaking.
You say in your introduction that, as a couple, you aren’t an obvious match. What do you mean by that?
Sarit Packer: We came from opposite sides of the cooking spectrum, I went to chef school followed by a long stint in a Michelin-starred kitchen in London, and I was used to extremely focused and regimented work environment, no music, clean chef whites, my own knives, 16 hour work days. But Itamar was so laid back—he learned on the job, starting from prep chef.
Itamar Srulovich: Sarit leads by example – she likes to do everything herself to show our team that it is possible, I will let them try on their own and learn from their mistakes when they fail. Somehow between the two of us we managed to create the most amazing team in the kitchen and upstairs, who really care about what they do. This is the thing I am most proud of.
SP: I am a pure workaholic and he has really helped me balance that and enjoy life...I think that separately our food just isn’t as good.
You mention a mutual infatuation with Nico Ladenis’s Nico. What about that book resonated with you, and drew you to London? Are there any other cookbooks you both adore?
SP: The Nico book has a great introduction, it sucks you in to his head in a way very few books do. The idea that Nico wasn’t a trained chef, that he sacrificed a solid career to open his first restaurant in a crappy area of London and made such a success of himself. It is truly inspirational.
IS: The best cookbooks can change the way you cook and think, and give you so much more than just a tasty plateful. I love the books of Skye Gyngell, Diana Henry, Simon Hopkinson and everything by Claudia Roden. From the U.S., my favorites are Alice Waters, David Tanis, and April Bloomfield. The Mast brothers cookbook is a beauty and tells a great story, and I recently got the book of Le Pigeon restaurant in Portland which I love, I think their story is a bit like ours, I really want to eat there.
So, how does it feel to be debuting Stateside?
SP: We never thought that there would be such interest in a book that tells the story of a 20-seater restaurant in a quiet London neighborhood. It is unbelievable
IS: The U.S. is such a huge market, and so far away from us; we are anxious for our book to do well there – here in the U.K. we are close by to give the book all the support it needs, but out there a bit less so. Every time Americans come to the restaurant and enjoy it, we ask them to be ambassadors for our book in the states … We are so proud of this book and hope it will find its place in American kitchens.