PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia chef and restaurateur has earned a prestigious James Beard award, recognizing him as the best in his class for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Michael Solomonov is the head chef and runs the Israeli Restaurant – Zahav in Old City.

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Solomonov, who was born in Israel, says it was the influence of his grandmother that guided him toward a love of cooking.

“I was always sort of fascinated and intrigued by my grandmother’s cooking which is sort of Sephardic, Israeli cooking and that’s probably where it started.”

Solomonov came to the United States and got his culinary training in Florida, working with a series of chefs and restaurants over the years, arriving in Pittsburgh, and finally Philadelphia about 10 years ago.

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He was pleasantly surprised with the Beard Award, but has no clear idea how he was selected. Likely, by people who slipped into his restaurant to check it out.

“You get some high-profile people and you get some people that are here low-key sort of under the radar trying to figure it out, I guess judges.”

Hear more of the interview with Solomonov in the podcast player below.

Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio

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