The only child of mathematician and a medical doctor, Gur was born in the Latvian capital Riga in the then Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel in 1974. Upon reaching army age she joined the IDF's academic corps and studied English literature at the Hebrew University. She did her military service as an Officer in the Israeli Navy, where she taught technical English to future naval officers. Gur went on to MA studies in literary translation at Tel Aviv University while working as an El Al flight attendant to help finance her studies. The work with EL Al gave her the opportunity to travel and world sparked early interest in gastronomy.
She translated into Hebrew, from Russian, Mikhail Bulgakov's satire Heart of a Dog and from English, Yael Dayan's biography of Moshe Dayan My Father, His Daughter. She thought that she had found her vocation as a literary translator but then she met her husband, Ilan Gur, a journalist and an independent publisher, who introduced her to the world of magazine publishing. In 1991, one month before the Gulf War, the couple launched Al Hashulchan, with Janna Gur as the chief editor. The last decade of the 20th century was the formative one for the local food revolution and the interest in gastronomy was immense. Al Hashulchan, originally conceived as a trade journal for chefs and restaurateurs, developed a following among local foodies and in time evolved into a popular general interest food and wine magazine. Today it is considered the premier culinary Hebrew speaking magazine and is widely ready by amateurs and professionals alike.
In 2001, Al Hashulchan Media Group was established - as a specialized cook book publishing house. Janna Gur, as the chief editor, was involved in editing of over 40 Hebrew cookbooks, among them Sheshet - "The Kitchen Helper" series, which offered innovative approach to understanding recipes and cooking techniques. Nira Russo, a famous Israeli food writer, wrote about the first book in the series: "if you have a budget for just one cookbook, a definitive one, this is the book you should get." In 2002, Gur hosted a regular food segment on Channel 1 "Good Morning Israel" show. She continues to frequently appear on TV and radio, talking about food and wine and local culinary culture.
The Book of New Israeli Food
Published by Al Hashulchan in 2007 was Janna's first as an author. It was translated into German and published in late 2007 by Umschau Verlag. In 2008 Schocken Books division of Random House released an American edition. The Book of New Israeli Food was shortlisted for the "Jewish Book Council Awards" in 2009, and chosen as one of the 25 best cookbooks for 2009 by "Food & Wine Magazine"."The Book of New Israeli Food is splendid", wrote Claudia Roden, "...engagingly written, with delicious recipes and stunning photographs." At once a coffee-table book to browse and a complete cookbook, the book feature over 200 recipes, an historic introduction and background stories on various aspects of local gastronomy, such as olive oil, wine, local markets, grill etc. The book is fully illustrated with on location photographs by Eilon Paz. Contributors: Rami Han (research and recipe translation), Orly Pely Bronshtein and Ruth Oliver (food editing and recipes, Adam Montefiore (chapters on wine and olive oil).
Since the book was published, Janna has been touring and lecturing extensively about Israeli and Jewish Food, mainly in North America, and is involved in various media projects promoting Israeli gastronomy. She wrote (along with Joan Nathan) the first ever course on Israeli Cuisine for The New York Times Knowledge Network. The idea for this course was initiated by the Israeli Consulate in New York, and was the first culinary course presented for The New York Times Knowledge Network. At the time of the course's release, Israel had launched a widely publicized campaign to boost its declining public image, and it is likely this promotion of New Israeli Cuisine was a part of that campaign. Gur's recipes have also been promoted by various Israeli agencies in the United States. For example, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles has released more than one of her recipes on their website. This example is more recent, as both recipes were published online by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles in 2012, and it may be argued that this is still a part of Israel's ongoing campaign to rebrand itself. Her recipes have also garnered much attention in mainstream media outlets. For example, in 2009 New York (magazine) published Gur's shakshouka recipe as a use for in season plum tomatoes. With all of this attention, Gur has undoubtedly become of the names most commonly attached to New Israeli Cuisine, particularly in the United States. She is currently involved in the Treasure Box project aimed at preserving Jewish ethnic cuisines for future generations.
- Ilan Evyatar (March 21, 2010), "Preserving more than pickles", The Jerusalem Post
- Katherine Martinelli (May 5, 2011), "She turned Israel from wasteland to taste land", Jewish Chronicle Online
- Nira Russo (April 13, 2004), "The DNA of Food", Haaretz (Hebrew)
- Helen Hatzis (November 24, 2009), "A Taste of Israel: Janna Gur", Shalom Life (Jewish Canadian lifestyle's website)
- 2008 Nat'l Jewish Book Awards Announced, Jewish Book Council website
- (October 14, 2009) "New Food & Wine Collection Picks Best Cookbooks of the Year", foodchannel.com
- praise for "The Book of New Israeli Food", Random House website
- Janna Gur talks about Israeli food on YouTube at Google Headquarters
- Linda Pellacio (May 2011), in a Radio intreview with Janna Gur, at Heritage Foods Radio, Brooklyn
- Janna Gur leads American food writers mission to Israel, from a story broadcast in Channel 2 (Israel)
- Sarit Sardes Terotino (February 17, 2010), "The New York Times presents: Course about Israeli Cuisine, Ynet (Hebrew)
- Sarit Sardes Terotino (February 19, 2010), "The New York Times presents: Course about Israeli Cuisine, Ynet
- Sarit Sardes Terotino (February 17, 2010), "Positive Views of Israel, Brought to You by Israelis, The New York Times
- Sarit Sardes Terotino (September 25, 2009), "Plum Tomatoes, New York (magazine)
Articles about Janna Gur
- Naomi Kooler (April 8, 2009), "Author has seen many changes in Israeli food", The Boston Globe
- Joe Crea (September 23, 2008), "Author Janna Gur sets rich table for Jewish holidays with 'The Book of New Israeli Food'", Cleveland.com
- Linda Morel (September 10, 2009), "New Year meals in Israel reflect international sensibilities", Jewish Weekly
- Matthue Roth (October 16, 2008), "A Taste of Israel", The Forward
- (October 4, 2010), "Israel Food and Culture: Israel on a plate", The Financial Express
- The Book of New Israeli Food Reviews, Janna Gur's Website
- Janna Gur blog, at Jewcy
- Janna Gur's Website
- Al Hashulchan website
- "The Wandering Chickpea" Article by Janna Gur, in Mark Bittman's blog, The New York Times