Augustine Shomali: Gastronomy between East and West

Posted on Feb 23, 2019

Chef Augustine grew up in an environment which combines mixed flavours of Arabic and Spanish cuisine. While his mother was busy making a plate of tortillas, his grandmother would cook the Palestinian “Maftoul”, a handmade couscous. Augustine began his profession after graduating from the Notre Dame Center cooking school in Jerusalem. Over time he developed a distinctive gastronomic expertise, combining East and West cuisine. His interest was enhanced by his participation in several international courses in Spain, Italy and France.

The experience and skills of this Chef made him an exceptional cook, allowing him to cook dishes for very important people. And during Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from 24 to 26 May 2014, Shomali was selected to join a team of talented chefs to prepare a special dish for the Pope and the delegation accompanying him.

AUGUSTINE SHOMALI Chef – Hotel Ararat – Bethlehem:

“When the pilgrimage of His Holiness to the Holy Land was planned, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem asked us to prepare the formal dinner for Pope Francis in the Patriarchate. We were a group of local chefs. We spent many hours together studying the selection of special dishes, as the event itself required special attention.

“Today we are making the same dish we offered the Pope. The main dish was the Palestinian Maklubeh cooked with aubergines, cauliflower, potatoes, onions and mutton, all of which was accompanied by a modern, European touch. We cooked it like an Italian risotto, with the addition of cream and cheese.

“We made dinner and waited to meet His Holiness and take a picture with him. However, the dinner was delayed for safety reasons; the delegation stayed longer than expected in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. They later apologised for the fact that Pope Francis could not meet us. We were disappointed, but also surprised by the Holy Father’s determination to meet us, to express his thanks, and to take a picture with us before he had to leave.”

Augustine strives to offer Palestinian specialties to which he adds particular flavours, thus gaining the appreciation of the Christians of the Holy Land, especially during Lent.