I first heard about Chef Yehuda Sichel about seven and a half years ago when I met my wife, Sabah. She raved about his food, his character and credited him with helping her get through some tough times. At the time, she worked night shift at a pharmaceutical company and, in addition to helping her take care of her dog Gizmo, she would come home exhausted after midnight each night to find a beautifully plated and equally delicious dish in her fridge.
Like most chefs who love what they do, Yehuda showed his love and compassion through his food. He briefly moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles shortly after Sabah in 2009. He spent some time working at Neal Fraser’s well-received Grace Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard. Personal reasons brought him back to Philadelphia in 2010 where he soon took over a sous-chef position for James Beard Award Winners Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook (CookNSolo Restaurant Group) at critically-acclaimed Zahav.
I didn’t get to meet Yehuda in person until my wedding weekend in 2015, but I reached out in 2013 when I was looking for a new gig in LA to see if he still had any contacts from his time out here. Neal Fraser’s email appeared in my inbox shortly after. We got together over a few beers to talk food at Short Order at The Grove. I admit I was a little nervous at first, conversing with a restaurateur who won an Iron Chef America Battle (against Cat Cora in 2006). He quickly dispelled my anxiety; he was a great guy, incredibly generous and wonderful to meet with. Unfortunately, he didn’t need a chef at the time.
A few days later Neal reached out and told me about a new place called Bestia. He said it was right up my alley, that his friend Ori Menashe needed help over there and that I should go pay him a visit. I walked into Bestia on Valentine’s Day and my name was on the schedule the following week. Working at Bestia opened up many doors for me and I most likely wouldn’t have ended up there if not for Chef Yehuda.
In 2014 Yehuda partnered with CookNSolo to open Abe Fisher. This modern take on traditionally-inspired Jewish cuisine will have your eyes bulging, your mouth watering, and your taste buds screaming for more. As Executive Chef and partner, Yehuda is flexing his evolving style in his eccentric dishes like chicken liver mousse, the brilliant borscht tartare with accoutrements, corned beef tongue, veal schnitzel tacos, and the best latkes I’ve ever had with housemade apple sauce and creme fraiche. It’s no surprise that the restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2015. With the perfect balance of spices, tang, heat, and crunch; your belly will thank you.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area go check him out, you won’t be disappointed. If you aren’t in the area, be sure to check out his Instagram for some #foodporn you can almost taste: www.instagram.com/sharkhuda