When the Chanukah festival comes to Boys Town Jerusalem, the school’s chef Avi Chamal sizzles up several thousand golden latkes with a very special twist. Chamal’s holiday creation: delectable, crispy sweet potato latkes with a distinctive bouquet of spices. “They’re healthy and they’re tasty—the two main criteria I use for the over 13,000 meals I prepare each week for our students and staff.”
Israeli-born Avi Chamal has headed the Boys Town Jerusalem kitchen for 13 years, producing freshly cooked and baked fare daily to delight the palates of the Boys Town student body, who trace their origins to 45 countries across the globe. Not every chef could meet this daunting task, but Avi’s previous work experience includes having served as a senior chef at the prestigious Jerusalem King David and Dan Panorama Hotels, and clinching silver medallions at the Luxemburg and Canada Cooking Competitions.
“True, I had the finest gourmet ingredients at my disposal in the hotels,” he muses. “Here at Boys Town I work with high-quality, though very basic foodstuffs. My challenge is to create the level of hotel cuisine using these ingredients.”
Avi is well aware of the crucial role the school’s three wholesome meals a day plays in enriching the lives of Boys Town students. For a number of these young men, it is a true lifesaver. “I get immense pleasure from planning and preparing the meals,” says the chef. “I like to give the boys the extra touches that show them we care.”
Boys Town Jerusalem is one of Israel’s premier institutions for educating the country’s next generation of leaders in the fields of technology, commerce, education, the military and public service. Since its founding in 1948, BTJ has pursued its mission of turning young boys from limited backgrounds into young men with limitless futures. From Junior High through the college level, the three part curriculum at Boys Town – academic, technological and Torah – is designed to turn otherwise disadvantaged Israeli youth into productive citizens of tomorrow. Boys Town’s 18 acre campus is a home away from home for its more than 900 students. More than 7,000 graduates hold key positions throughout Israeli society.
SWEET POTATO LATKES
Makes 25 latkes
2 lb. sweet potatoes
1 lb. regular large potatoes
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 Tb. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 spring fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Butter or oil for frying
1.) Grate sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.
2.) Squeeze out excess liquid.
3.) Mix remaining ingredients and add to the grated potatoes, stirring to blend.
3.) Heat frying pan with butter (preferable) or oil till it bubbles.
4.) Drop potato mixture by spoonfuls and press into patties.
5.) When latkes begin to brown on the bottom and at the sides, flip them to fry the opposite side.
5.) After frying, place onto absorbent paper towels to drain.
6.) Serve on platter sprinkled with powdered sugar, with sour cream on the side.