Cooking has always been the focus of my life. I grew up in the Israeli portside city of Haifa, eating fresh local market foods at home and at the local Arabic and Jewish restaurants. My introduction to the kitchen, like a lot of other kids, was helping my mum make cakes and getting to lick the bowl. Then I started cooking in my early teens, and have felt at home in the kitchen ever since. When I left Israel to study in the UK, it really dawned on me just how important good food is – how great food can lift your spirit and make you happy, and is central to not only special celebrations but your everyday rituals and home life. Israeli food is a vibrant and distinctive combination of Mediterranean, North African, European, and Middle Eastern, and when I came to New Zealand in late 1997 with a young family, the food I loved was very hard to find. I missed it terribly, and so I opened the Lunch Box on Shortland Street, which expanded to become Ima Cuisine on Fort Street. Ima (pronounced eema) means mother in Hebrew. My food is fresh, honest, healthy and nurturing, and the restaurant atmosphere is warm and casual. We aim to make our guests feel immediately comfortable and at home, and with the Ima cookbook I hope that some of my favourite dishes will become your home favourites too.