José Pizarro is crouching next to an Anglo-Nubian goat, craning his neck for a selfie. It’s a hot sun pounding the Judea Mountains, and the dizzying, midday heat makes the scene between the Spanish chef and the nanny goat seem even more surreal.
It’s the fourth day of a tour round Israel with some of Britain’s top chefs, and this surreal feeling is becoming familiar. The cheesemaker arrives. He’s dressed in white trousers, a sleeveless white shirt with a white beard resting against his chest. ‘Wizard,’ whispers chef Tom Sellers. The cheesemaker dips a long-handled spoon into a jar of labneh, and carefully scrapes the tangy yoghurt onto Fergus Henderson’s outstretched finger. The tasting begins.
Each day on the trip has channelled a dreamlike quality. We eat poached sweet courgettes in chef Eerez Komarovsky’s garden, and fish topped with a blackened pinecone, giving off little wisps of smoke. It feels surreal sharing a kebab with Fergus Henderson on the streets of Tel Aviv and watching chef Pascal Aussignac haggle over the price of a falafel press.