Stella Hanan Cohen is a renowned cookbook author and artist. She is passionate about the food and culture of the Jews of the Mediterranean island of Rhodes that reflect the culinary wealth from medieval Spain and that of the Ottoman Empire.
As the great-granddaughter of Yaacov Capouya, who was the Rabbi of Rhodes in the early 20th Century, and a descendent of the Sephardic Jews of Rhodes – the Rhodeslis, Stella, from an early age, was immersed and deeply drawn to their soulful cuisine and enduring heritage.
Fuelled by her lifelong fascination of both the extraordinary gastronomic legacy and the ancient Ladino (Judeo-Spanish language) Stella compiled a book, “Stella’s Sephardic Table: Jewish family recipes from the Mediterranean island of Rhodes”, which has won five international awards, published by The Gerald and Marc Hoberman Collection 2012.
She is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the knowledge of this delicious home-style cooking with communities, food enthusiasts and media. Much of her time is spent recreating and evolving this ancient cuisine to suit contemporary living and is continually exploring a more wholesome approach to this healthy Mediterranean food.
Stella’s art reflects the journeys of her ancestors as well as the mystic symbolism of women and their archetypes in other Sephardic cultures. Her work has been exhibited extensively, especially in South Africa and in the US.
Stella, an honorary Life Chairperson of the Sephardic Community of Zimbabwe, has always been active in humanitarian work, including a project to establish the first eye clinic in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Joint Distribution Committee of New York. In 1999, Stella was honored as a ‘Woman to Watch’ by Jewish Women International in the US.
Though the cuisine evolved, the essence of being Sephardic remains intact - namely having a deep sense of family and community. Rhodeslis are especially renowned for their openhearted hospitality and a love of life – gozar de la vida. Stella loves nothing more than having multiple generations of family and friends come together to share and savour the enticing food from the kitchens of her ancestors from the old city in the island of Rhodes.