The roots of Chef Nir Mesika’s cooking lie in the shared meals prepared for his large family, first by his grandmother and then his mother. Mesika’s grandfather, a highly regarded pastry chef born in Morocco who baked for the king, immigrated to Israel where he opened his own bakery. Nir’s grandmother oversaw a household of nine children, with the older siblings learning to cook for the younger ones. His mother became an excellent cook and over time imparted her recipes and culinary secrets on her son. The memories of cooking with her and of ancient Moroccan flavors still inform his cooking today, providing diners with a cross-cultural experience.
Mesika enrolled in the Bishulim Culinary School in Tel Aviv, Israel to build a strong classical cooking foundation for a career in the kitchen. While there, he developed a strong affinity for seafood, learning the best techniques for cooking various types of fish, a skill that has served him well throughout his career.
After graduating in 2006, he started working at a seafood restaurant called Goocha TLV in Tel Aviv, where he served as a sous-chef for two years. In 2008, he moved to Milan, Italy and partnered with a friend to open Denzel, a kosher restaurant in the Jewish quarter, which remains successful to this day.
Two years later, he returned to Israel looking for new opportunities. After dining at Catit, one of the best restaurants in the country, he contacted the owner, renowned chef Meir Adoni, in hopes of landing an internship. Soon, he was supervising the line including hot appetizers and entrees. He left to work as a personal chef, but when Adoni was opening his next restaurant, Mizlala, he offered Mesika a position as sous-chef. There, he met his wife Liat, with whom he would later move to New York.
In September 2012, he opened Zizi Limona, where he was a partner and the executive chef. The restaurant drew accolades for its Modern Mediterranean cuisine, including “Best Falafel” in the Village Voice and “Best Mediterranean Cheap Eats” in New York Magazine, as well as a glowing “Hungry City” review in The New York Times.
This summer, Mesika teamed up with Ori Apple and Amir Nathan to open Timna, where he is a partner and the executive chef. Timna’s menu showcases Modern Israeli cooking rooted in the traditions of the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa in a rustic yet stylish space in the East Village.