Uri Jermias (owner of Uri Buri restaurant and the Efendi Hotel , both in Akko) is a formidable figure: tall, broad, white haired, with a benevolent face and a white beard that reaches to his waist. Uri is nearly always visible at his restaurant, moving pots and pans in the kitchen with the assurance of a masterly orchestra conductor, or strolling among the tables advising guests about how to structure their meal.
Like Erez Komarovsky, Uri is a consummate and resourceful extemporizer. His chief collaborator is the sea. Like all great cooks, Uri knows when a perfect ingredient should be allowed to shine on its own: “Simple fish made in the most basic manner,” he says, “can be enjoyed no less, and perhaps even more, than Black Sea caviar, or a blowfish arriving on a direct flight from Tokyo (flying business class, of course).”
We keep Uri Jeremias’s Uri Buri cookbook at hand in our own kitchens—partly because of Uri’s culinary philosophy. Yes, there are recipes in the book, but more than half of it deals with how to think about food—fish in particular—once you know some basic rules, how to be discriminating, respectful, and inventive in the kitchen. Like love, these things come through in the dishes you serve.
Uri’s interest in ad-libbing started early. He tells a story:
When I was young, I hitchhiked around Europe, and I decided not to have any plans. When someone asked me: ‘Where are you going?’ I’d say: ‘Wherever you’re going.’ I traveled to different cities, met lots of people, and so on. After a few months, I came home, and friends asked me, ‘Did you see Mont St. Michel?’ or ‘Did you see this or that?’ I said no. My way of traveling was completely different. It was not about seeing the wonders of the world. It was to meet life.
It is with this same sense of adventure that Uri cooks—and we, his lucky guests, get to be his fellow travelers.