By Pat Gallen

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “And the Beard Award goes to, Michael Solomonov.”

Last week, Mike Solomonov of Philly’s “Zahav” was named the best chef in the country at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago.

“To the great city of Philadelphia, I am so grateful to bring this back home to you.”

Solomonov, owner and executive chef of Zahav, says, “I remember the best part of that night was facetiming my kitchen crew here. Like everybody was on facetime. We couldn’t hear each other because there was either too much screaming in Chicago or too much yelling here, but it was pretty magical.”

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Solomonov has taken Israeli cuisine to another level. He has written a book about it, and made a movie about it. And in turn, Zahav has etched it’s place among the premier restaurants in the country.

What makes Zahav so special?

“For me, Zahav is about my heritage, it’s about how I represent or tell the story of Israel through food.”

Solomonov continues, “I think that everybody here believes in what it is we are trying to do, which is to excel at service and make people feel so special and so comfortable, like they are coming into your home. “

The foundation of the restaurant is the hummus. It’s the backbone of what Solomonov does on a nightly basis.

“There’s a lot of momentum of the restaurant and it comes down to like the first thing that people eat is this perfectly made hummus that has been made with care, every single day. Every single hour we make it fresh.”

Mike showed me how it’s done with his perfectly braised lamb shoulder and brick over baked laffa bread.

After that meal, it’s safe to say, Solomonov is deserved of the highest honors.

Solomonov says perhaps the most special part of winning the prestigious award is that it happened on Israeli Independence Day.

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