Born near Tel Aviv and raised in Pittsburg, Michael Solomonov returned to Israel at 15 to attend boarding school—only to return to America for a few smoke-filled semesters at the University of Vermont. Back in Israel with negligible Hebrew skills, Solomonov found work at a bakery making traditional breads and pastries. Something sparked, and after advancing to short-order cook, Solomonov began to explore the prospects of becoming of chef.
His next move took him to culinary school in West Palm Beach, after which he migrated north to Philadelphia. Solomonov was soon cooking in the French kitchens of Chefs Terence and Patrick Feury and under the mentorship of Chef Marc Vetri in his growing Italian empire. While he advanced as a cook, Solomonov always felt the pull toward the flavors of Israel.
In 2003, Solomonov’s brother was killed while serving in the Israeli army, and the tragedy pushed Solomonov to focus on better understanding his country’s language, food, and culture. After two more years cooking with Vetri, Solomonov took over as executive chef of Steve Cook’s Marigold Kitchen
. Solomonov and Cook proved to be a dynamic pair and went on to open Mexican Xochitl
and Solomonov’s dream restaurant, Zahav
in 2008. The Israeli restaurant is a celebration of Jewish and Middle Eastern cooking, and the passion he poured into Zahav
earned Solomonov the James Beard “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” Award in 2011. The team soon formed Cook + Solo restaurant group and has since opened Percy Street Barbeque
, two Federal Donuts
locations, and kosher Citron and Rose
. In 2013, Solomonov won the StarChefs.com Philadelphia Rising Star Restaurateur Award.