Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spotlight on CKCA Graduate Chanie Apfelbaum of Busy in Brooklyn

Chanie with Meredith Vieira of The Meredith Vieira Show on NBC 

Working simultaneously as a food blogger, recipe developer and brand ambassador, Chanie Apfelbaum truly embodies the Busy in Brooklyn spirit for which her popular blog is named. We managed to grab a few minutes out of her busy day to chat about her past, present and future in the world of kosher food.

Number of years working in the (kosher) food business.

What was your first job in the food business?
After starting my blog, my first paid gig was a cooking demonstration.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position.
I write about food on my blog and for publications. I give cooking demonstrations and work as a brand ambassador, developing recipes for companies. 

Best way to describe how your CKCA training in culinary has helped to get you to where you are now.
Learning proper techniques and opening my palate to new foods that helped me to expand my culinary horizons. 

Describe the biggest mistake you ever made on the job.
That would have to be when I mispronounced "ghee" on a radio show.

Describe the greatest accomplishment of your career so far.
Being on the cover of The Wall Street Journal was it for me. I never imagined I would make it that far. 

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
When people make my recipes at home and enjoy them. 

What do you find most challenging?  
When my recipes/ideas are copied without credit. It's a challenge a lot of bloggers have to face because you can't really copyright a recipe. 

Chanie at The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
Go with the flow. I recently did a cooking demonstration where the electricity kept shorting so my food wasn't cooking. Instead of getting nervous, I took the time to engage with the audience. It was one of the most successful events I've ever done. 

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I was on vacation in Miami and I posted a photo of something I was eating at a restaurant. Someone commented, "I'm sitting right next to you!" 

What are you passions outside of cooking / baking?
I enjoy crafting, crocheting, scrapbooking and photography.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
Modernizing traditional Jewish foods in a fun and healthy way.

Chanie is part of an ad campaign for Snapple.
Describe the best meal you ever had.
One of the best restaurant meals I've ever had was at Tierra Sur at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard, California. It's a good thing I use Instagram so I can actually tell you what I ate! Organic chicken with English peas and herbed carrot butter risotto, rib eye with sautéed kale and béarnaise sauce, Maltagliata pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, summer truffle and veal sausage, and a medley of chanterelle, shiitake and oyster mushrooms on Challah bread with sous vide eggs and truffle-chive vinaigrette. The Mexican chocolate cake with frozen caramel custard was insane. 

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef? 
Don't allow yourself to get burnt out. The secret ingredient is love. If you're not feeling it, your food will suffer. 

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years? Due to modern cooking techniques and molecular gastronomy, I think mixing milk and meat will become less of a challenge. I'm looking forward to some good quality non-dairy cheese products as well as soy-based meat alternatives that will taste like the real thing. 

Complete the following sentences, 
“the best product to ever go kosher was: “bacon (beef/lamb obviously)”
“I wish _____ was kosher:  Fish sauce. It adds depth to lots of Asian dishes”

Favorite food to eat? Sriracha
Favorite food to cook? Anything Middle Eastern
Favorite Cookbook? Aromas of Aleppo, by Michael Joseph Cohen and Poopa Dweck
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef? Chopped
Favorite kitchen tool? My Julienne peeler

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Hadassah Brook, Pastry Chef at Café Chocolat and a “Cronut®” Queen!

Chef Hadassah Brook, a graduate of our Pastry Arts Program and the Pastry Chef at Café Chocolat in Cedarhurst, NY, took a few minutes to shake the flour off of her apron and share the story of her path in to the world of pastry arts (including how she fed into “Cronut®” madness this past Chanukah!)

Number of years working in the (kosher) food business: 

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
Assistant Pastry Chef at Chocolate Charm followed by Assistant at Marron Bistro.

How did your culinary education help you in moving forward to a job/career in the kosher food business?
My education at CKCA provided exposure to information and techniques and lots of opportunities to practice under the tutelage of experienced chefs. Ultimately, this helped me gain the confidence to pursue new opportunities.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position...
As the head pastry chef, I create, develop and produce updated/elevated versions of classically inspired pastry.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
My greatest rewards are providing others with pleasure, educating eaters about their food and the spiritual pleasure that results from any act of creation.

Also of interest is that I take challah with a bracha nearly every single day. I promise you this is not only changing me for the better, it's definitely affecting all of my coworkers. The entire mitzvah is symbolic of the work of every kosher chef. We are elevating our work and giving it meaning simply by keeping it kosher. I'm honored to be a part of elevating the world. 

What do you find the most challenging?
The limitations of the physical body. If I could work every minute without ever needing to rest or address other needs, I probably would! My list of aspirations is currently at infinity, but unfortunately I can't seem to mutate into a culinary robot... yet. 

Tell Us about “Cronut®” Madness
For Chanukah, we decided to debut our own take on the famous croissant-doughnut. Each batch takes several days of lamination to achieve results and I simply couldn't make them as fast as people were eating them! After frying, they were dipped in a warm vanilla infused milk glaze. They were finished either with a milk chocolate ganache or a vanilla cream cheese frosting coupled with a cranberry-blueberry reduction.

Am I allowed to humbly say that they really are quite delicious? The madness was in watching the craze take place! People learned that daily production was limited and there had to be a limit of six per customer. Given their success, we have continued the product and are creating new finishings and toppings every week. Two of my favorites have been milk chocolate salted caramel ganache and the classic cinnamon. I'm dreaming of a taste adventure... Everyone is encouraged to join! 

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job? 
1. A chef's talent lies in their ability to make good decisions every single moment. (Colloquially, we would call this "making good calls")
2. Trust your unconscious mind. It knows more than you.
3. If you're going to test the consistency of balsamic reduction with your bare hand, you will always lose. Also, the doctor will probably make fun of you.

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
Many years ago my shirt caught on fire. To this day, I still have no idea how. I didn't even remember to stop, drop and roll. I can't remember how the fire went out. I remember being most upset that my clothes were ruined; never mind that I had just been on FIRE.

What are your passions outside of cooking / baking?
Art & music. My personal time is usually spent holed up in my bedroom throwing paint at things. 

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?

Describe the best meal you ever had…
In Rome at Ba'ghetto, the milchig one. The suppli. The ravioli. The mozzarella. The bottarga. The truffle oil. The gelato at San Crispino. I'm getting emotional just thinking about this. 

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef?
Please be truly passionate about food and please be genuinely open to learning constantly. 

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years? 
It's going to radically accelerate in quality. Eventually, people are going to become educated enough to make meaningful food choices. For anyone who is part of the HOOKOS (
Holy Order Of the Knights Of Shabbos) program, think - pulled beef sandwich at your Shabbos table.

Favorite food to eat? I have too many commitment issues to answer this question.
Favorite food to cook? Anything new. I enjoy acts of creation above all else. 
Favorite Cookbook? Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold
Favorite Celebrity Chef? Michel Roux Jr. 
Favorite kitchen tool? Hands. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spotlight on Josh Massin, Executive Chef of Nobo Wine and Grill

Photo Credit: David Zimand

Chef Josh Massin, of Nobo Wine and Grill in Teaneck, NJ is one the most creative chefs working in the kosher food industry today. He will also be CKCA’s first guest at “The Chef’sTable”; a class offering foodies, connoisseurs and gourmands the opportunity to experience an intimate evening with a master chef practicing his or her craft. 

How many years have you been in the food business?
11 years

How would you describe your education in culinary arts and how you got to where you are today?
I trained at Johnson and Wales and graduated in 2004.  I went in with an interest in professional cooking, but was still unsure of my career path. The program exposed me to culinary and professional influences that really motivated me towards where I am now. At the time, the culinary movement known by some as molecular gastronomy, or modernist cooking, was in its nascent phases in the US. It’s a highly disciplined, science-based cooking method with an emphasis on creativity and it really appealed to me.

What is the inspiration for what you do?
I am always reminded of a quote from celebrated chef Thomas Keller, “Excellence is a process, not a place”.  Ergo, it’s important to orient yourself towards this direction, knowing full well you might never get there.  I always keep my eyes on where I want to be in the future, not just where I am now. What also motivates me is the satisfaction of balancing so many variables and coordinating many moving parts. I wear a lot of hats, and sometimes it amazes me how much one man can juggle. It’s very gratifying. One moment I’m developing the menu; another I’m handling strategic business issues; all the while functioning as the fountainhead of information from the industry at large to my team at Nobo. And the list of “hats” goes on.

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
I worked at Grill Street in Teaneck, New Jersey as a server and then also became the mashgiach.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position.
I do everything except the books: I’m chef, partner, COO, CEO, CCO. I’m in the kitchen, hands on, from 9am to 6pm most every day. In the evenings I work on development, as well as spending a lot of time connecting with customers. Working in the front of the “house” is critical because I can bridge the gap between food and service.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
A good day is overcoming impossible odds. Managing the human elements, supply issues, operational issues, etc. The job is very dynamic—I never do the same things over and over. The skill sets are the same, but every day is different.

What do you find the most challenging?
Managing the human resources. I like to hire bright people. I hire for desire and ability, not necessarily experience. The downside is managing a room full of independent thinkers! Everyone is an individual and needs to be dealt with in a way to keep them happy and working to their potential.

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
“Prep today, for tomorrow we may die”, so to speak—in an often chaotic working environment, having options is critical.  By staying in front on things that I can control, I have much more flexibility in dealing with the curve balls.

What is the most unusual thing that has happened to you on the job?
Years ago, a defining moment in my career was when the line cook developed a brain tumor and I needed to stand in for him. He had to leave for 8 weeks and I stepped into his higher-level role which for me was a watershed moment.

Photo Credit: David Zimand

What are you passions outside of cooking / baking?
I play electric guitar, collect firearms, I forage for edible things like mushrooms, wild plants, herbs and edible flowers.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
As a master of evidence based progressive cuisine – meaning, a chef that is thoughtful, practical and does things based on evidence rather than machismo and bravado.

Describe the best meal you ever had…
When I was much younger, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I attended my uncle’s wedding reception at a classic, old school, elegant restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan. It was classical French in terms of service, hospitality and the environment. There was service on crystal, artwork on the walls – real old school European sensibility. That experience showed me how elevated dining could be. The attention to detail changed the way I looked at food.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef?
Figure out what your priorities are, make sure you’re willing to commit to your craft and know it takes a lot of sacrifice to be a chef. If you’re in a full service restaurant or catering you must be “hands on”. Know that you can’t outsource the passion. Sometimes you need to do a gut check in order to make tough decisions about balancing your work life and your personal life.

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years?
Two ways: there will be a lot of “noise” in the kosher food market, both in the digital realm, as well as in the multitude of new restaurant openings.  It’s only going to get worse before attrition makes it better.  Also, there is a macro-economic piece. The commodities market--vis-à-vis the meat industry--is making the cost environment increasingly impossible.  Margins are getting tighter.  The net result, I believe, will be two categories of consumer: Those with enough disposable income to afford fine food regardless of price, and those with less marginal income who will need to focus on less meat-centric cuisine.  It just won’t be affordable.

Photo Credit: David Zimand

Favorite food to eat? Raw fish, anything cured, dried or fermented… kimche, beer or meat. I’m not interested in food unless it takes at least two weeks to make!
Favorite food to cook? I love to butcher meats, make charcuterie like sausages, bacon and beef jerky.
Favorite Cookbook?  On Food And Cooking” by Harold Magee
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef? I’m not really a fan of cooking show’s but I must admit that it’s nice to see Gordon Ramsay and others who wear my hat get screamed at.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

CKCA Launches New Cooking Intensive Course

CKCA is proud to announce the second season of our popular Cooking Intensive Course. Based on our Professional Training Program in Culinary Arts (and taught by the same chefs), this 16 session course teaches fundamental cooking skills and chef techniques that can be easily applied at home. We offer convenient part time evening hours at a competitive price for the busy professional who wants to wow in the kitchen, but not quit his or her day job.

What will you learn in our Cooking Intensive Course?  

Our professionally trained chefs teach a variety of cooking topics that cover kitchen basics and more sophisticated culinary applications.

What's included in the course...

A Repertoire of Recipes. Plating & Presenting With a Chef's Eye. Best Cooking Practices for Various Cuts of Meat. How to Purchase, Filet and Cook Fish. Use of an Array of Kitchen Tools. Preparing Poultry to Perfection. Recipes for Rich Flavorful Sauces. Herb & Spice Applications. Professional Knife Skills. Mastering Egg Cookery.

What former students have said about our Cooking Intensive Course.

"I came away with many new recipes, a confidence in my ability to prepare different types of food efficiently and attractively, and a group of new friends with whom I have kept in touch."

- R.G. Summer 2014, Culinary Intensive

"The skills and information I learned from the class gave me more confidence in the kitchen and expanded my recipe collection!"
- E.G. Summer 2014, Culinary Intensive

"The teaching kitchen at the intensive was a happy place. We learned new techniques in food preparation and combining traditional and new ingredients." 

- A.L. Summer 2014, Culinary Intensive

How to register...

If you are interested in learning new skills, recipes, and menu planning ideas then you cannot miss this course! Previous sessions have sold out quickly so register today!

The schedule is as follows: 

February 2nd – March 25th Monday & Wednesday 7:00pm-10:00pm 

* No class on Wednesday, March 4th. Make up class will be on Tuesday, March 3rd. 

Register Now!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jack Silberstein of Jack’s Gourmet Foods, is on the Forefront of Authentic Handcrafted Sausages!

Jack Silberstein has successfully transitioned from a professionally trained chef to becoming the creator of a successful brand of kosher sausages and meats. Read his story and get inspired as he is truly unique!

How many years have you worked in the kosher food business?
6 years

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position.
I run Jack’s Gourmet, a glatt kosher meat company that produces authentic handcrafted deli meats and sausages.

Describe your education in the culinary arts and how that got you to where you are.
I got my formal culinary education by attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY where I graduated at the top of my class. My education and experience has been a combination of working in various restaurants, catering, working as a private chef and working for the food section of the LA Times.

How did you learn the business end and manufacturing side?
I had no actual experience in the food manufacturing business when I started Jack’s Gourmet. I learned everything I know on the job. “Sink or swim” as they say.

When did your interest in food start?
I became interested in cooking when I was 7 years old. I began baking actually; I would spend time in the kitchen baking muffins and cakes. By the time I was 10 years old, I was cooking complete Shabbat dinners for 14 people every week!

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
My first job was when I was 12 years old, as an apprentice at Levana, the now closed Upper Manhattan restaurant that was the most acclaimed kosher restaurant in NYC. My 2nd job was also my first major paying job in the food business. It began when I was a junior in high school; working as a line cook at Landmarc in Tribeca- the first restaurant opened by celebrity chef Marc Murphy. I was hired as a full-fledged line cook while on summer break. That experience was what led to my attending the CIA a year later

What made you go into food manufacturing given your background?
It wasn’t the exact path I had envisioned but it definitely turned out to be the correct one. Prior to founding Jack’s Gourmet, I was teaching cooking classes. It was at that time that I got hired as a consultant for a kosher meat company to create a consumer education program. This involved developing recipes and cooking tips using different cuts of beef.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Creating products that traditionally did not exist in the kosher food industry and having people buy them repeatedly is absolutely incredible! The fact that my creations have become a staple in people’s kitchens is the most rewarding part of my work.

What do you find the most challenging?
Many kosher companies have seen the success of Jack’s Gourmet and have tried to enter the sausage market to compete with our products. This is probably our biggest challenge. I answer this by continuing to make a quality product and constantly improving based on our customers feedback.

The most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
To trust my instinct. Though I make sure to make educated decisions.

The most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
While working a busy shift at a well-known restaurant, I received an order from a customer for a Caesar salad. The order ticket read: Caesar Salad: NO CROUTONS, NO CHEESE, NO DRESSING.

What are you passions outside of cooking/baking?
I love to bike and run, sometimes I love to bike and then run! I also enjoy carpentry and history.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
I want to be known as someone who gets things done and never compromises when it comes to quality.

Describe the best meal you ever had.
I simply can’t! I have had a lot of really amazing meals and dishes throughout my life. The dish that I crave and eat the most is simple roast chicken with glazed carrots. I love simple food prepared really well. If you can do that you can do anything.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef or opening a kosher food business?
Don’t be afraid to fail, because it is likely that you will. It is treating the failure as a learning experience that counts. All failure has the potential to make you better and stronger.

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 - 10 years?
I think kosher food is improving and within 5-10 years the variety and quality of kosher foods will be incredible. I am optimistic that it will be much easier to choose quality balsamic vinegar off a store shelf than a pale imitation.

Jack (third from the right) at Kosherfest. 

Favorite food to eat? Roast Chicken.
Favorite food to cook? Vegetables, any vegetables!
Favorite Cookbook? Escoffier- Le Guide Culinaire.
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef? Jacques Pepin.
Favorite kitchen tool? A sharp chef’s knife.