Taste Bud Profile
Lior Lev Sercarz
Chef Lior has never lost his love of trying new flavors. As a child growing up in a kibbutz in Israel, getting to experience the foods around him always seemed like an adventure. When I walked into his Spice Lab in NYC, I felt like I had been transported, and that I could be anywhere in the world just by picking up one of the magical little jars of spices that surrounded us. The way he has casually introduced spice and flavors to his own kids makes so much sense to me—and made me really want amchur "lemonade"!
In Israel, the street foods are amazing. The scents are so distinct. And then the produce in the markets—sometimes when I go back to Israel now, I still am reminded “wow, this smells like something, this is what it’s supposed to smell like”—unlike when I go to some grocery stores here. Fruits and vegetables should smell like something! It’s one of my favorite things to experience, the scents of markets.
With my kids, I treat spices like any other ingredient. Who ever came up with the idea that children shouldn’t eat spices? For my sons, I made puree for their baby food and always added spices. They didn’t know any differently! I don’t make a big deal out of it. Also their palates are developing constantly—they might dislike it one week and love it the next. Keep trying. It’s not just the food, sometimes it’s the environment too. There are just so many different factors. I put spices in everything I make. I let them touch everything. They touch the flour, they touch the sugar. We talk about textures and smells, and then they engage in their own way. I blend water with amchoor and turmeric and they call it lemonade—there’s no lemon. They don’t care! The idea of putting those spices in water is weirder to the parent than the kid. Why do kids eat Doritos? They LIKE extreme flavors! Just be willing to try and maybe think of it in a different way than you have before. I try to let them engage in whatever they want to—so we make chocolate milk at home (which they didn’t know you could “make”), and we discuss the cocoa powder, and added cinnamon, and they tried everything separately and then together. I asked if they could tell me what the cocoa powder tasted like, and they said “bitter”. But also that it reminded them of brownies. Both are correct, and they felt like they were part of the process.
There is a one scent that really transports me. The scent after it rains—if I could mimic that scent then I could retire, but I hope I never get there.
For someone who grew up surrounded by nature, this one smell really takes me to a specific moment in time, and it’s such a strong, emotional memory.
People don’t smell enough. People need to focus, pause, and try to record how something smells and how they feel. It is something that is recorded on our hearts, and it’s impossible to erase.