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

Paws Enchanted Masquerade Ball to Benefit the Humane Society of Broward County

The annual PAWS Gala benefiting the Humane Society of Broward County occurs at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale. This year’s theme is the “Enchanted Masquerade Ball,” presented by Spirit Airlines. Chairwomen Alyse Lemstrom and Sheryl Maher and their committee have organized the event with proceeds

Dan Marino Foundation Celebrates Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month

The Dan Marino Foundation in Fort Lauderdale will celebrate the autism community with various initiatives and events during Autism Acceptance & Awareness Month throughout April. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of children, teens, and adults with autism. When Dan and Claire Marino created the nonprofit in 1992, the prevalence of autism

Visit Lauderdale Celebrates Broward’s Cultural Diversity

Did you know Broward County is home to a rich, vibrant tapestry of cultures, with people from more than 170 countries speaking 147 languages living here? This dynamic array of diversity is not only prevalent in every corridor of the county — it’s proudly celebrated in the attractions, festivals, and food the destination offers. And

Jack & Jill Center to Host Team Pouncey Bowl for Change Fundraiser

Jack & Jill Center’s Young Professionals Network will host its annual charity bowling tournament from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, at Manor Lanes in Fort Lauderdale. The Team Pouncey Bowl for Change community event will feature a day of bowling, a live DJ, arcade games, a raffle, a full bar and

Other Posts

Gutenburg Burger Opens at Time Out Market Miami

Gutenburg Burger, a German-American burger concept, recently debuted at Time Out Market Miami, home to chef-inspired events, arts and culture, and live entertainment. Chef Jorge Kauam launched the eatery to honor Germany’s history of high-quality beef and highlight the hamburger’s proclaimed roots in his new menu.  “Our buns are a mix of a brioche and potato

Gulfstream Park Village’s Free Cone Day Returns Next Month

Gulfstream Park Village’s popular Free Cone Day will return on Wednesday, May 17 at Häagen-Dazs. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., guests are invited to enjoy one free mini cone or cup with the ice cream flavor of their choice. Additionally, Gulfstream Park Village Center will transform into a family-friendly village carnival with free entertainment

NAMI Broward to Hold Annual Artful Minds Event in Dania Beach

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Broward County will host the Second Annual “Artful Minds” event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 6 at MAD Arts in Dania Beach, 481 South Federal Highway. The art exhibit showcases the relationship between art and mental health through artwork in various mediums created by artists

MAPP 2023 Conference in Miami to Empower Women in Hospitality and Culinary Industries

The second annual MAPP Impact Conference will return to Miami on May 1 to host a series of panels, speakers and events featuring top chefs and restaurateurs nationwide. MAPP (Mentorship, Advocacy, Purpose and the Power of women) is a nonprofit organization aiming to empower women in the culinary and hospitality industry.  The day begins with a