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Meet Chef Yuval Fachler: The Brains Behind Salva Vida

Courtesy of Anatoly Michalo
Courtesy of Anatoly Michalo
Chef Yuval Fachler, a transplant from California and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is a talented and creative chef who has recently put his own spin on the pop-up restaurant creating “Salva Vida”- Restaurant in Motion. With short three-month residencies only open a few days a week, Fachler has designed a dynamic restaurant with limited boundaries, embodying the essence of salva vida (life saver) and giving him the opportunity to live a balanced life that doesn’t solely exist in the kitchen.

After his studies at the CIA and before returning to Israel, Fachler spent a year at La Madonnina del Pescatore, a two Michelin-star restaurant in Senigallia, a rural coastal town in Italy, followed by a year in London at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, Maze. In Israel, Fachler spent five years between Herbert Samuel and Tapas Ahad Ha’am, starting as a line cook and moving up through the ranks to head chef. Although chefs don’t generally excel so quickly, Fachler attributes his fast-paced progression to his tenacity.

Chef Yuval Fachler Courtesy of Yael Rivnay

“I came from London and there it’s put your head down, work, do what you’re told; this is how I cooked, and how I manage myself […] I came to work and at the end of the day was happy because that’s what moved me, and helped me to excel.”

His progression in Israel matured Fachler as a cook and opened his eyes to the possibilities available to him within the world of cooking.

“It was an amazing experience, the whole moving ahead to come from a line cook to a management position, because in general I keep to myself, I’m a quiet person, and all of a sudden I’m in this position where everyone is asking me questions and I have so much to give and so much knowledge and skills and stories. I just needed someone to ask me. It was amazing for me to see that this profession, which I love so much, [has] a continuation, […] which as a young cook you don’t realize.”

After his time at Herbert Samuel, Fachler took a break, getting married and traveling around the world. “It was important for me to stop, because I really thought to myself if I don’t stop now I can literally continue like this for another 10 years, 15 years and there has to be more to life than just that. It was really time for me to relax and realize what I wanted and I started dreaming up my restaurant concept […] thinking about what I’m going to do and where I want to go and how I can take all this experience and all this passion and kind of squeeze it into a little love child.”

When returning from his travels, Fachler reacquainted himself with the lay of the culinary land, the cooks, and the suppliers.“I spent a little time doing that until realized that I’m ready to do my own thing, and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment, and I don’t need big chefs above me or big bosses. I can start out small and start doing what I want to do and see how it grows.”

Tuna Dish © Mya Marshall

Fachler adopted the pop-up restaurant model, popular in many cities across the globe for over a decade, providing himself with the perfect forum in which he could express and share his culinary creativity without the steep financial commitment of a larger project. For three months, he found various locations such as empty hangers or art galleries closed in the evenings in which he would hold one or two night restaurant events. “The best part about it was obviously the service and getting it out there, watching the people’s faces and the whole experience. Bringing my concept and just putting it in different random locations.”

However, with the temporary, mobile nature of the pop-ups, Fachler felt as though he did “this whole big circle around the world” to just end up at catering again. Having gained popularity and interest over the course of his three months hosting pop-ups, Fachler decided that it was time to take his work one step further and find a location that could host him for a few days each week.“It’s more of a residency in that I move in, will stay in one place for three months at a time […] but it was still always very important for me to hold onto the DNA of the original idea, which is to take the place as it is and to just put my concept on top of it […] With the way this model works it leaves a lot of room for balance, a lot of room for creativity, a lot of room for thinking […] Here I really have time to develop my craft and to research.”

Courtesy of Anatoly Michalo

His “restaurant in motion,” Salva Vida, has made it’s first home at Brown TLV where it will remain until mid-June, after which Fachler will decide its next location. Salva Vida’s menu presents food of a personal fusion.

“It’s not a fusion as far as east meets west, but […] it’s my journey as a cook and as a person. It spans from California to Italy to London and of course Mediterranean and that’s where I find my comfort zone, in this span. But it was always really important for me to cook and express what I’ve actually breathed myself, the ingredients that I’ve actually touched with my hands […] because these are flavors that are food memories, these are things that you live with, these are things that bring you back. So I feel very comfortable with my style of cooking because I’ve been there, I’ve touched it, I’ve experienced it, so for me it’s real.” Fachler opted out of a media blitz to promote his restaurant, choosing to rely on social media and word-of-mouth, another preserved molecule of the pop-up DNA. “If I have five people here who are really enjoying themselves they’re going to go tell a couple more people and this is how you slowly build yourself for the long run, which is what I’m interested in. This isn’t a one-off thing, this is what I want to do, this is in essence the whole name Salva Vida, this is as if my ticket out from that mainstream world, it really is a lifesaver for me on many different levels.”

“I can be more relaxed, really a more balanced lifestyle which is important because life is important and health is important and family is important and a lot of times great chefs have to give up on a lot of these things in order to pursue their trade and I want to prove to myself that there’s another way to do it.”