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Cooking has taken Scottsdale-based chef Zipora Einav everywhere -- just about. After stints serving as in-home chef for celebrities like Pierce Brosnan, Cybill Shepherd and Seal in Los Angeles, she was ready to take her show on the road.
"The biggest challenge," says Einav, "was to find the best ingredients. I had to go into the markets wherever we were, with a driver who understood the local language and currency." In the market in Antwerp, Belgium, the driver told vendors she was cooking for Mariah Carey, and no one wanted to charge any money. "They love Mariah so much, some guys asked for my autograph," Einav says.
No restaurant reviews, please.
In Japan, Einav visited the Tokyo fish market, said to be the biggest in the world. "I saw creatures I don't even know what to call them," she recalls, "so fresh you could smell the ocean on the fish."
Einav was there on a special mission. Normally, she bought food and ingredients she herself would prepare. But this time, she was searching for fresh clams for Carey to cook. "Mariah likes to make pasta with clam sauce," Einav says. "She does it herself to relax."
Carey invited Einav, her manager, personal assistant and masseuse to help eat the pasta. Since they were switching roles, Einav, who was born in Israel, ended up singing "Hava Nagila" for the cook.
Most of the time, of course, it was Einav who did the cooking.
"Singers have to be especially careful what they eat," she says. "Food can affect your throat and ability to perform."
Before working for Carey, Einav was the chef for the Kelly Family Rock Group, an Irish band that is hugely popular in Europe and Asia. She cooked for them in Cork, Ireland, their home, while they were rehearsing for their tour. At the same time, Einav was making preparations herself. She designed a state-of-the-art mobile kitchen that she packed into cases for traveling, and, according to Einav, it was better than most restaurant kitchens.
"All we needed was an adapter," she says. "I could turn any room into a top kitchen, assuming I had water."
And adapt it she did. On the European leg of the tour, the Kelly Family Rock Group stopped in the Croatian coastal town of Pula, where they played in an ancient Roman amphitheater. Einav had to set up her kitchen in a 2,000-year-old cave beside the ruins. This was particularly troubling to the chef, a Feng Shui enthusiast who feels that environment and personal intent directly affect the food she prepares.
"Everything in the universe is comprised of flowing energy -- including your kitchen," Einav says. "If you don't clear negative, stale or suppressed energy from the kitchen, it goes into the food, which then goes into our bodies. For food to truly nourish, it must be prepared in a nourishing environment and with highly positive intent. Imagine the accumulation of energy built up in a 2,000-year-old cave."
To save the situation, Einav performed what she calls a Kitchen Harmonizing ritual. She burned incense, lit candles, and altered the vibe, she says, by drumming on a Native American drum, and ringing Balinese bells.
"You could tell nobody cared about the hall," she says, "the energy of neglect was everywhere, and the suppression of the old Communist regime . . . that feeling was still in the place. If I didn't clear it, it would go right into the food."
She found more civilized cooking quarters in China, at the five-star Beijing Imperial Hotel. There, she was invited to use the hotel's kitchen. Unfortunately, only the head chef spoke any English at all.
Every day of the tour, Einav baked fresh Irish soda bread for the Kellys, using stone-ground wheat flour they brought with them from Ireland. In Beijing, apparently, they'd never smelled anything like soda bread baking.
"The smell was so amazing that all the chefs gathered around," Einav recounts, "at least 20 chefs in all-white. Their faces were glowing and I was really uncomfortable, because I didn't know what they wanted until the head chef came over and told me."
The bread-baking incident opened the way for a culinary trade. The chefs of the Beijing Imperial Hotel very much wanted to know how to prepare a Western brunch and what was included. Einav taught them to make Swedish pancakes, eggs, hash browns, ham, and stuffed crepes. In exchange, she was shown how to properly wield a wok heated to 500 degrees, prepare black bean and oyster sauces, and even a special technique for slicing vegetables.
Today, Chef Einav has returned to Scottsdale, where she's lived off and on for 20 years.
"I loved my clients and I learned so much," she says, "but now I'm ready to live a little less crazy of a life."