When Jerusalem native Benji Benoliel moved to the United States 15 years ago, he had no intention of parting with his Israeli roots.
From a young age, he was enthralled by Israeli cuisine. Growing up, preparing homemade meals was more common than venturing to restaurants, and Benoliel picked up on cooking techniques with ease.
Even in the midst of his real estate career in New York, he continued to host meals with his wife, Jessica Blake. After a move back to Blake’s hometown of Huntington Woods, Benoliel was ready for a new venture.
After exploring the Detroit food scene, he noticed Israeli cuisine was sparse. Not only did he long for his favorite dishes, but he also felt locals were missing out.
Benoliel and Blake put their heads together, developing the idea of an Israeli-inspired food truck. Benoliel was strict about making everything from scratch, and he focused on dishes readily available on the street corners of Jerusalem.
He was especially eager to introduce locals to shakshuka, a zesty tomato-based dish filled with red pepper and poached eggs.
After weeks of brainstorming, the name TruckShuka felt like the perfect fit. Aside from shakshuka, the menu also features street eats like shawarma, hummus bowls and a sabich sandwich.
Benoliel borrows from the traditional sabich recipe, which involves plenty of hardboiled eggs, roasted eggplant, tomato and cucumber salad, and a generous drizzle of tahini nestled in a fluffy pita.
“We [Israelis] think it’s the best thing you’ll ever eat,” Benoliel says. Since TruckShuka hit the road, people are beginning to catch onto the sabich craze.
When TruckShuka began its journey in April 2017, Benoliel admits it was challenging to gain momentum amidst the multitude of food trucks.
Nevertheless, he reached out to local breweries, booked catering events and made a statement at fundraisers.
As TruckShuka continued to make appearances, word caught on about Benoliel’s cooking. Before he knew it, the truck became a regular at popular sites such as Campus Martius and Eastern Market.
“People you would never think come by the truck,” Benoliel says. “It gives me a lot of pride.”
While he gets a kick out of watching new customers taste his delicacies, he has an affinity for helping the Jewish community. Most recently, TruckShuka partnered with NEXTGen Detroit, Yad Ezra and the University of Michigan Hillel.
Early on, TruckShuka gained exposure at the Michigan Jewish Food Festival, and Benoliel is eager to attend this year’s event on Aug. 26 at Eastern Market.
In addition to Jewish-affiliated events, TruckShuka is always a hit at private parties and corporate lunches.
Now that Benoliel has shifted careers for good, his passion for sharing his favorite recipes has become his full-time job.
TruckShuka is all about showing people true Israeli hospitality and ensuring no customer walks away hungry.
Visit truckshuka.com or follow the truck around town (@TruckShuka) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.