3 min read
Beauty is in the simple things in life.
Idan Chabasov, aka the Challah Prince, does not trace his love of challah baking back to a family tradition. There was no aroma of freshly baked challah in the kitchen of either his Turkish or Bukharin grandmother nor in the Tel Aviv home where he grew up. Cooking and baking was not an interest he ever pursued.
Fast forward to his mid-30s and the Challah Prince Instagram account, set up in January 2020, now boasts over 70,000 followers. Chabasov is excited to travel to the US four times this year to do workshops and hold a popup in the restaurant of a well-known New York chef. His regular online workshops are full of participants from all over the world, and in Israel, the influencer will soon appear in an ad campaign for a credit card company.
Chabasov started to bake challah after he moved to Berlin in 2014. “I began going to small Shabbat dinners for Israelis in the city. Once I remember looking at the table and realizing there was regular bread but no challah. So I decided to take it upon myself to be the one to bake and bring challah each week. Every Friday, I would also go to my German neighbors and give them a freshly baked challah. At first, they thought it was bizarre that anyone would bring them food as it’s not a custom people are used to doing, as we are in Israel. In the end, they were so appreciative.”
Source: Idan Chabarov
It’s easy to see why the Challah Prince brand has many admirers. Chabasov’s intricately braided challot, which can include weaving an impressive 17 strands, are traditional but innovative. Each creation shows off his artistry in its unbaked form or a mouthwatering golden brown.
Credit: Shai Neiburg
Then there is the baker himself. Chabasov is youthful, good-looking, and usually dressed in a black or white t-shirt that shows off his multiple tattoos (one of which is a challah of course). He can be playful, as in the image where his dark hair is dusted with flour, his mouth in a mischievous grin, as he holds up a strand of braided dough. In another post, he holds two challot, one on each side of his face. These perfectly styled images are clearly influenced by the animation and visual art studies and a career in marketing he had before moving to Berlin.
Life in the European city was not easy at the start. Soon after arriving, he experienced his first freezing cold winter and sank into a depression. Chabasov turned to study meditation as a means of coping and soon realized there was a strong connection between the exercises he was doing to calm his mind and the challah baking process which had by then become a weekly habit.
It’s the energy and not the recipe that will influence the ultimate outcome.
“Both are a way of slowing down and being mindful, more conscious and aware,” he explains. “Challah making is a special process of observation and patience. I always stress in my workshops that it’s the journey and not the outcome which is important. Eating it, in the end, is just a bonus.”
His attitude to getting back to the basics extends to always using the same recipe without any improvisation. You won’t find rainbow colors, stuffing, or toppings other than traditional ones on the Challah Prince’s creations. “I like to keep things simple as I believe beauty is in the simple things in life. And I don’t believe in claiming, as many people often do, that my recipe is the best ever. My passion has never been looking for different recipes. I am not trying to be a chef or a master baker.”
What he is, says Chabasov, is an artist who uses Challah baking as a creative and spiritual outlet. This starts, he explains, with standing behind your bowl and giving it your best energy. “Two people can make the same recipe with the same ingredients, but one will be tastier than the other. It’s the energy and not the recipe that will influence the ultimate outcome.”
Want to make your own challah? Get our recipe for The Best Challah Plus 9 Fun Shapes.
Credit: Jan Feldman
Main image credit Shai Neiburg