How he got his start: Ben-Israel started baking in his Viennese mother's kitchen as a kid, where he says "my biggest fascination was whipping egg whites to a cloudy meringue." His path to doing it professionally, though, was a bit unexpected: After graduating from fine arts school and completing his three years of mandatory service in the Israeli army, he was introduced to the world of ballet—and spent the next 15 years dancing professionally on three different continents.
"When retirement from dancing hit early, I relied on my art training to get jobs as a showroom and display windows designer," he remembers. "Somehow, my varied professional disciplines and early exposure to baking became my next career as a cake designer!"
In 1999, Ben-Israel established his flagship design studio and bakery, and since then his work has been featured in publications like Vogue and Martha Stewart Weddings, along with TV shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and Top Chef—Just Desserts. He also served as host and a judge of Food Network’s Sweet Genius, and has been a guest judge on shows like Chopped and Cake Wars.
What sets his company apart: "I was always devoted to technique in whatever career I undertook; therefore I embarked on the endless pursuit of perfect execution of cakes," he explains. "I would like to believe that one could tell our cakes apart by their neat presentation and clear visual statement."
What innovation means to him: Ben-Israel has no interest in following trends, he says. "My greatest contribution to the world of cake is insisting on finding authentic relationships between celebrants and the representation of their vision in cake form," he explains. "We seek inspiration in anything relating to the celebrants—their favorite colors and flavors, outfits, stationery, event designs, locations, and even the season of their event."
Memorable moments: Ben-Israel is hesitant to play favorites among the thousands of clients he's worked with over the years—so he opts to cite his work for a building, instead. "The cake we created for the famed Plaza Hotel's 100th birthday stood out for sheer size—12 feet tall and 8 feet wide—and the thousands of accurate architectural details."
All-time favorite food: "Cake, of course. Preferably, my own yeast-raised Kugelhopf, with whipped cream on the side."
His biggest hope for the F&B industry: "Not only do I hope and work toward a complete recovery of our beloved industry, I thrive to rise to newer heights of customization of our offerings," Ben-Israel says. "We need to continue the education of both our audience/consumers and our own ranks of new F&B professionals."