Heating Up the Holidays with Yaniv Cohen

Yaniv Cohens spiced pears
Yaniv Cohens spiced pears

Nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and star anise: these are some of the fragrant spices warming Yaniv Cohen’s soul—and kitchen—this winter. “I’ll make sweet potatoes and I’ll sprinkle them with clove, cardamom and coriander and roast them just like that,” he suggests, “and add something sweet. Maybe cardamom cookies with cranberry, orange and pistachios.”

While Cohen would typically be racing around juggling roles as restaurateur, cookbook author, social media personality, father, and global culinary director and vice president for the experiential agency ShirazCreative, he says that being quarantined during the pandemic has given him a welcome excuse to spend more time excavating his own pantry for flavors that transport him back to his family home in Israel. There, he recalls, loved ones from myriad cultures gathered regularly to share laughter, love and recipes: “My father is from Tunisia and my mom was from Iraq. In Israel you have people—Jewish people—from all over the world. Every neighbor was from a different country and had their own dishes. Food brings people together.”

Cohen left Israel for New York City at 21, anticipating nothing more than a yearlong adventure. But fate had another plan in store, leading him to Miami and a multifaceted career in the culinary arts. Many have come to know him as The Spice Detective, a moniker he earned after starting a blog and YouTube channel of the same name in 2014. “I was always fascinated by the colors, the aromas, the medicinal properties of spices,” he explains. “They add micronutrients and antioxidants to our diet—things you might not find in other food sources.”

While he gained a legion of followers by teaching cooking classes and hosting private dinners for discerning clients, Cohen’s popularity grew exponentially after he opened his first restaurant, Jaffa, in 2018. Found at the recently renamed Mia Market in Miami’s Design District, Jaffa highlights Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, spices and herbs but, he says, “Everything has a little twist. And the presentation is a little more playful and modern.” Social media influencers repeatedly snap the eatery’s intriguing dishes, especially the fiery shakshuka and the golden turmeric cauliflower with za’atar-spiced labaneh yogurt.

Yaniv Cohen herb chicken
Herb Chicken

Like most restaurants around the country, Jaffa’s future seemed uncertain at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Cohen says he really missed social interaction, so he came up with a way to compensate: As quarantine stretched through the Jewish high holidays, he hosted cooking classes online so he could walk home-bound cooks through his take on traditional dishes. “I’m such a ‘people person’ that the first time I had to do a Zoom cooking class it was almost depressing,” he recalls. “But it actually worked. It was sweet and it was a beautiful way to bring people together. The energy still went through the screen.”

For Hanukkah (Dec. 10 to 18) he promises to make at least one batch of savory latkes for his fans (“I come from a Sephardic family,” he explains, referencing Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent. “So our latkes are spiced. We use turmeric, coriander, herbs, parsley, cilantro, cumin. We definitely don’t serve it with applesauce. Maybe tahini.”). Other holiday-friendly menu items, including cardamom roasted chicken, a rice dish with root vegetables, and dessert starring red-wine poached pears can be found in the pages of Cohen’s My Spiced Kitchen: A Middle Eastern Cookbook released last year.

In the interim, he plans to continue participating in One Table, an organization that promotes gathering friends, family and even strangers for Friday night dinners similar to those religious Jews, Samaritans and certain Christians have hosted for millennia—albeit virtually, nowadays. “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy shabbat dinner with your family and friends,” he explains. “But when your traditional culture calls for it that pushes you to do it.”

Honoring deep-rooted traditions during trying times is how Cohen stays optimistic, though he has much to look forward to, regardless. The second outpost of Jaffa will open any day now at the new Okeydokey Food Hall in Brickell and, in early 2021, the concept will expand into Hallandale Beach with a full, sit-down restaurant and wine bar with live music and entertainment. Cohen also hinted he might be making a television appearance soon on the world’s leading streaming entertainment service. If variety truly is the spice of life, Cohen is just the chef we need in these times.


Yaniv Cohen cookbook

You May Also Like

A Rare Joint Interview With the Faces of Arquitectonica

The firm’s inner workings and collaborations are revealed as SFBW talks to founding principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia and his son, designer Raymond Fort.

Newgard Developer Harvey Hernandez Gets Lofty With SFBW

“I grew up with nothing,” says Harvey Hernandez—with his usual candor—about his upbringing in Venezuela. “Our family was very humble and very decent, but we didn’t have much.” The founder and CEO of Miami-based Newgard Development Group doesn’t dwell on those hardships, and there isn’t a trace of rancor in his voice. This is a

Tamara B. Rodriguez, the High-Profile Co-owner of Island TV, Exudes Powerhouse Elegance

Tamara B. Rodriguez picked up a pair of business degrees from the University of Miami (undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting) and never looked back. As the chief financial officer of Fatima Group and Centuric, she is responsible for a conglomerate of thriving organizations across a wide range of essential sectors, including shipping and warehousing,

Why Steven Douglas Founder and Chairman Steve Sadaka Is the King of South Florida Executive Search

StevenDouglas founder Steve Sadaka recalls that after previous downturns, he eventually regretted not having investing in distressed stocks and other deflated assets. So, when COVID-19 emerged, he didn’t panic. He invested: in people. The result was phenomenal growth. There’s a lesson in that for every industry. As he told SFBW, taking in talent and treating them

Other Posts

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Receives $500,000 Donation for Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide comfort and companionship to patients, including children.

Upcoming Delray Beach Concours D’Elegance Benefits Local Charities

The event will feature over 100 vehicles of historical significance, all for the community’s enjoyment at no cost.

Transformative Healthcare Solutions and Florida Mental Health Coalition Host Inaugural “Back2Basics” Festival 

The event will help honor Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Tom Aviv, Masterchef Israel Champion, Brings His American Venture to Miami

The Israeli sensation’s restaurant offers an innovative menu and retro vibe that transports guests to Tel Aviv in the 70s.