Posted February 6th, 2014 | Dinner Discussion, Holiday, Spicing Up Married Life


Peaceful Views on Food


The popular and delicious St. Peter’s Fish, aka Tilapia, prepared by Chef Joseph at his restaurant Magdalene, in the town of Mary Magdalene. Recipe to follow in upcoming Blasts.

My recent trip to the Holy Land left me with great inspiration.  I’m dedicating the next few E-blasts to keep you all updated with everything (almost everything) that happened on this trip.  Remember, this is the VERY FIRST pilgrimage of its kind!  Even the security screeners at the Tel Aviv airport were excited to hear of Grace Before Meals’ efforts to bring together faith, food, culture, and cuisine.  

At one of the stops I passed by a small shop and taste-tested crepes made by young aspiring chefs in the Christian Quarters. These crepes were pretty tasty!

As such, we are already planning another trip (or possibly two) to the Holy Land next year.

From the view of Dominus Flevit Church, i.e., “The Church Where the Lord Wept,” overlooking the city of Jerusalem.

What made this a unique trip was its food-centric focus.  My traveling philosophy is to see a country through the eyes of faith and through your stomach. 

At a local farm in Jericho – the oldest city in recorded history. There we worked with local farm helpers to pick our fresh vegetables, which were prepared at the Green Valley Restaurant. Recipe to follow.

In other words, if we really want to get to know a country and see it well, then we have to understand how people pray and what they believe – no matter what religion they profess. At the same time, we must also be willing to taste their local cuisine for ourselves, and in this case, learn how to make some of the cuisine too.

Young Chefs at the Notre Dame Culinary and Hospitality Program teaching and preparing falafels for our pilgrims. Another recipe to come.

Enter Chefs for Peace!

By now, if you’ve kept up with my past Blasts and social media news bites, you already know Chefs for Peace is an organization that started with the inspiration of a Christian man living in the Holy Land.  He discovered a unique phenomenon.  While politicians and military types were fighting with each other, based on their politics or their religion, a group of chefs of different religions and different political backgrounds actually worked together, cooked together, conversed with each other and even fed one another from the kitchen.

The Organizers. Left to Right – Chef George, Ode, Moshe, Nebil, and two assistant chefs from an Armenian Restaurant located in the Armenian Quarter of the Holy Land.

From this inspiration, Chefs for Peace has become an integral part of the peace process, beginning one meal at a time.  For the pilgrims and the Chefs, we were all very much inspired to spread the message.  Eating food that was prepared before our very eyes added greater connection and meaning to the local people and to the faith they celebrated.  

A vendor from the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem sharing remarkable insights about the concentrate from the citron fruit.

This opened our eyes to the possibility of peace, because as they work with big, sharp knives, they were fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah, “They have turned their spears into plowshares, swords into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4).

Chefs for peace, especially in the Holy Land, recognize that meals, lovingly prepared and shared, are a very viable answer for the peace talks.   

Demonstration of an Iraqi bread-making shop. The word for the type of oven used is translated as a “womb” to highlight how from the womb we are given the bread, which is life.

I pray that politicians, heads of state, and government agencies, as well as leaders of armed forces, will see that differences in religion do not mean a divorce from the conversation.  In fact, Jesus showed clearly that dinner conversations can lead to dinner conversions of the heart.   

The Head Chef and his staff at the wine and cheese reception offered to our group by Voice of Faith Travel and Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.

It’s said that the way to man’s heart is through the stomach.  That’s certainly true for the dishes Chefs for Peace prepared –  delicious, interestingly unique, and yet very traditional cuisine, prepared in the local customary style or with a little fusion pizzazz.  The result was delicious food that warmed the hearts, minds, and souls.  Hearing their stories, learning about their culture, and celebrating at the table of plenty made this an experience of a lifetime.

Vineyard stop at the LaSalle Academy, which supports itself by selling award-winning wine.

With this FIRST EVER Faith and Food pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we could literally, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:8). 

At Grotto Restaurant in Bethlehem, working with staff on how to make fresh pita with za’atar.
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John Buechsenstein, CHE John Buechsenstein has been a winemaker and wine educator in California for many years.




  • Have you ever eaten a meal with someone of a different religion? What did you learn?  Was it a good experience?   
  •  Do you think enemies could ever eat together and help bring about world peace?   
  •  Different religions have different dietary restrictions.  What’s your understanding of pure versus impure foods?

Please post your comments and questions. These mean so much to our Grace Before Meals team and our community of faithful foodies.  

Let us pray:


Father in Heaven, Lord or all, bless all of those who participated in any way in this most recent pilgrimage.  Bless those who served and made this such a wonderful experience.  May the blessings we received, especially at the hands of our fantastic hosts and Chefs for Peace, help us to spread the Good News wherever we go.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Holiday, Spicing Up Married Life | 2 Comments