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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kosher Culinary Takes Manhattan: CKCA visits Renowned De Gustibus Cooking School

CKCA Chefs Phillippe Kaemmerle' and Avram Wiseman were proud to lead a Chanukah themed demonstration and tasting at DeGustibus, the world renowned cooking school at Macy's Herald Square. They were honored to join an elite club that has included some of the world's best chefs.

Chef Avram Wiseman presents his dish.
Chef Phillippe Kaemmerle' shows off his perfect plate.

The presentation was a homecoming for CKCA Director, Jesse Blonder, who started his career working as an assistant at De Gustibus. Returning to the school as a presenter marked a major milestone for him and for the school as a whole.

CKCA’s menu of all new items focused on upscale, but accessible Chanukah inspired cuisine that would be easy for attendees to replicate at home. The menu was as follows: 

Amuse Bouche
Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts with Warm Chocolate Soup

First Course
Smoked Trout with Raifort Sauce and 
Frisee & tarragon salad with comice pears, candied walnuts, radishes, & tarragon vinaigrette

Second Course
Portugese Kale & Potato Soup featuring Jack's Gourmet Beef Merguez Sausage

Main Course
Potato Crusted Chicken with white bean puree, sauteed spinach, tomato garlic confit, and baby squash.

Almond stuffed baked lady apples / olive oil chocolate cake / autumn fruit stew / creme anglaise

CKCA would like to thank Sal Rizzo, proprietor of De Gustibus and their gracious, attentive staff. 

Look out for more events in the future! We are planning to collaborate with De Gustibus to do a hands-on class in the spring. 

From left to right, CKCA student Alex Trofimov, Chef Avram Wiseman,
CKCA graduate Menachem Freeman and Chef Philippe Kaemmerle.  

A note from a happy guest.

For more information, visit our website, 
Give us a call! 718.758.1339
Email us:

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Visit us!
The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts
1407 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Australian Chef Itta Werdiger Roth of Mason & Mug Shares Her Experiences in the Kosher Food World

Chef Itta at Mason & Mug

Originally from Australia, Executive Chef Itta Werdiger Roth is now one year into co-owning and cheffing at the renowned Mason & Mug Restaurant in Brooklyn. Read on to hear more about Chef Roth's path to success in the kosher food and hospitality industry. 

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

What other jobs have you had in the food business?
My first job ever was at an ice cream store as a teenager where we made our own waffle cones in Melbourne, Australia.  Years later I was randomly a mashgiacha and prep cook at an Israeli food festival. My first job in New York City was as a personal chef. I also ran a boutique catering company for a few years. I was an original Pardes employee, first as a server and then as a line cook. Most recently, I ran a really cool music based supper club called The Hester. 

What is the best way to describe your education in the culinary arts in the culinary arts and how that got you to where you are? 
I'm self-taught. I'm street smart, work hard and use my instincts in the kitchen. I read cookbooks as though they are novels. 

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position.
I'm the chef at a “small plates” beer and wine bar. Small plates, means that we create several dishes and present them to our customers on small plates in a rustic and unpretentious way. I create the menus, cook the food, train others to cook the food, talk to purveyors, meet deliveries and deal with a lot of very small local companies, too many!

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Seeing our customers enjoy themselves because of the unique restaurant  environment that my partner, Alexander (Sasha) Chack and I have  created. Alexander comes from the 92nd Street “Y” food and beverage venue in Tribeca.

Chef Itta giving a demo.
What do you find the most challenging?
Trying to pass on the specific vision of each dish and overall line setup to my cooks.

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
The importance of SPEAKING CLEARLY and SLOWLY and being super organized. Also, having a really good, but simple prep-list always in motion on my gorgeous white board!

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
Crazy stuff happens all the time but nothing ever surprises me. One time I accidentally let some crack addict clean the windows! My skirt has fallen down and my hat has come on the line and a million things have flown out of my hands and splattered everywhere during a rush. 

What are you passions outside of cooking / baking?
Hanging with my family, live music, cycling, skiing and swimming in the ocean.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
The girl who made a bar kosher or maybe something related to my pilgrimage to introduce different veggies to Americans and to get them to eat way more of 'em.

Describe the best meal you have ever had.
That's really hard. I've eaten a lot of really good food. But to be honest, I started cooking because I wanted to eat my own food my own way so it is a toss up between the yuuuum Spaghetti Bolognese I've been making with Grow and Behold ground beef and chicken liver with wine...or a kind of macro bowl with short grain brown rice, kimchi, a mixture of warm veggies like kabocha squash and kale with brewer's yeast, brags, hot sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Looks gorgeous, tastes great and is so good for you too.

What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming a chef?
This job is for you if you know how and want to work really hard, like 14 hour days on you feet and, if you know its not truly beneath you to do anything and everything that is involved in running a kitchen. If you love eating and enjoy serving people with a great passion, this job is for you.

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years?
It will keep following the rest of the hip food world I guess, with more natural, seasonal, wholesome and local ingredients. Hopefully, the kosher world and Americans will grow out of all the fat free foods. The growth rate of diabetes and obesity has grown so much -- what does that teach us exactly? Do I have to spell it out?

Chef Itta at Kosherfest 2014

Favorite Food to Eat? My "macro bowl" of brown rice, kimchi, warm veggies, brags, hot sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
Favortie Cookbook?
The Flexitarian Table written by Peter Berley.
Favorite Cooking Show/ Celeb Chef? I don't watch reality TV and competitions, but competing in Kosherfest 2014 was a lot of fun.
Favorite Kitchen Tool? Other than a sharp knife, hmm the food processor is very helpful and I use a Microplane  for many things.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chef David Blum of Hartman's Fine Kosher Foods in Toronto Shares His Approach to Cooking Kosher Across the Canadian Border

Chef David Blum, Executive Chef at Hartmans Fine Kosher Foods in Canada, was a fierce competitor at this year’s Kosherfest competition. He fired up the contest with his bold flavors and colorful plating.

CKCA spoke to Chef Blum about what fuels him in the kitchen, his culinary passions, and the future of the kosher food industry.

Describe your culinary education?
I attended culinary school in Jerusalem at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute, which unfortunately closed. I then returned to Toronto and received my diploma from George Browns' Food and Beverage Management two-year program where I learned about business and operations which are essential to running the “front of house.”

What were your first jobs in the food business?
When I was sixteen I had a summer job at Joe Boo's Cookoo's in Toronto manning the fire pit which was surrounded by a revolving wall of roasting chickens!  My second job was at Umami's Sushi while I was studying at George Brown. I worked in the dairy kitchen taking advantage of every opportunity to work as an apprentice to the sushi chefs.

In one sentence describe what you do in your current position.
I manage and operate the kitchens for Hartmans, executing our large line of prepared foods, retail items, frozen foods, catering, and pop-up restaurant.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Seeing the smile on a customer’s face who is able to find everything she needs for a last minute dinner party. After 15 minutes of shopping she is all set and I know that my job has been well done. 

Second, I must share the moments that helped build my passion for working in the culinary industry. I love smelling the freshly opened truffles from Italy, getting the first taste of two-month dried charcuterie, grilling off beef “bacon” wrapped Kobe ribeye, arranging hamachi tartar for a photo shoot, stuffing a cornish hen with foie gras for roasting, loading up my smoker with beef ribs and hickory wood... I could go on and on!  Many of my friends with other careers are totally jealous of what I do for a living.

What do you find most challenging/frustrating?
I have a profound hearing loss and rely completely on my cochlear implant. Working in a noisy environment can be challenging. It has been said that deaf people have a heightened sense of taste and smell which certainly works to my advantage.

What is the most important lesson you've learned on the job?
Many chefs have big egos. To be a successful chef you need to handle your ego carefully. I trained in Japanese kitchens where there is the highest level of respect for the chef or trainee. I apply that attitude to my workplace and expect that from my cooks.

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I was executing a wedding for 450 guests with a staff of 33 workers. My cochlear implant hearing aid broke early on during service and honestly, I could not hear a thing.  I had a full staff waiting for orders and hungry guests expecting food. I quickly pulled a wait staffer to be my personal interpreter for the evening – standing by my side at all times. The end result?  Everyone was pleased and there were no hiccups. Funny enough, after dessert the bride’s brother who was also deaf found me in the kitchen to offer a spare hearing aid!

What are you passions outside of cooking / baking?
I’m an avid car enthusiast - classic cars and sports cars. For my birthday, my wife bought me an hour of driving a Ferrari at the racetrack.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
I wish there was a James Beard award for the kosher world. It would be a dream for me to win that award and to be recognized for my work in the kosher food industry.

Describe the best meal you ever had.
I went to my wife’s family moshav where friends invite you for a full day barbecue rather than just one meal. There were forty of us and we used a grill the size of a ping-pong table. We grilled up cow brain, duck liver, lamb chops, fillet mignon and other kosher cuts, which are unavailable to us in North America. Dessert was an empty plate and a knife with an invitation to cut right "off the vine" from the family farm. We helped ourselves to passion fruit, raspberries, persimmon, watermelon and other sun bathed fruits. Their approach to simple farmer style cooking was by far the most enjoyable meal I’ve ever had.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in working as a chef?
You need to LOVE it in order to last. If you find gutting a fish tolerable and interesting then you are in the right career. Also, culinary students and chefs need to stay in good shape and exercise since the kitchen is a physically demanding environment. Understand the difference between "eating" and "tasting" so you can avoid overeating.  


Favorite food to eat?  My wife’s cholent
Favorite food to cook? Charcoal grilled fish
Favorite Cookbook? Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi 
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef? Chuck Hughes of Montreal
Favorite kitchen tool? My beloved zester