Thursday, February 11, 2010

Polina Kallush Lands First Chef Post at Max and David's

Polina Kallush (center, holding the Chef's knife), a recent December '09 graduate of the Culinary Arts professional program and a student of Chef David Ritter, has landed her first culinary job at the upscale kosher eatery Max and David's, located in Elkins Park, Penn. Max and David's serves American food and international cuisine: steaks, burgers and specialty dishes. Polina, who lives in nearby Philadelphia, had long hoped to work there. Max and David's, which has a Zagat rating and was named a Zagat "Noteworthy Newcomer" in 2008, is widely considered to be the most gourmet kosher restaurant in the metropolitan area, boasting a stunning open kitchen (the chefs cook on display, in front of the diners), and an eclectic, exciting menu.

"I knew that as part of the CKCA pro program, I was going to need to find a place to work as an apprentice, and because it was such a long drive to Brooklyn from Philly three times a week, I asked Jesse [CKCA director] to ask Max and David's if they would be interested in taking on an apprentice," Polina said. "Instead, several days later, Jesse called me into the office and reported that before he had had a chance to call them, Max and David's had called him. They were looking for a chef."

CKCA runs a Chef's Network program for kosher restaurants, institutions and catering companies, which seeks to match up CKCA graduates with companies needing talented chefs. CKCA also posts public job listings for kosher chefs on its website at

Polina interviewed for the job at Max and David's and she said there was an immediate feeling of comfort that she had the requisite skills for the job and that Max and David's would be a wonderful place for her to learn, grow and excel as a chef. She started in January as a Max and David's mashgacha and chef, working under executive chef Tommy and another prominent chef, Matt Segal, who was a competitor on the fourth season of the television show Hell's Kitchen. Working with talented chefs is an opportunity that Polina said is a very valuable part of her continuing education.

Polina spends a significant portion of her day checking vegetables and surveying ingredients as part of her mashgacha duties. Max and David's is certified under Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia, which is associated with the Star-K. Rabbi Dov Brisman, one of the rabbis from the certifying organization who works regularly with Max and David's, also has an interesting connection to CKCA. Thirty years ago, he was the chavrusa (study partner) of Rabbi Zushe Blech, CKCA kashrus instructor, who played a big part in Polina's mashgacha education at CKCA. "Rabbi Blech is a wonderful teacher," she said.

As for Polina's cooking, she is currently working the Gard Manger station, preparing salads and some desserts, and she has also begun cooking for the staff. The staff and owners liked her dishes so much that one of them is going on the menu. Polina joked that the chef who worked the grill informed her that he likes her food so much that he plans to move into the spare room at her house. But Polina's husband and three sons (ages 21, 17 and 9) may have a problem with that!

Also, as of last week Polina has begun to prepare the restaurant's regularly offered chicken soup appetizer.

Polina said her most difficult challenges so far have been "figuring out which plates go with which salads," and the like, but she now feels that she is in the zone and doing well. She felt that the CKCA pro program well prepared her to work in a professional kitchen, and that she got more out of the program than she expected.

"I have profound gratitude to CKCA, because it gave me what I needed as a start. Everything else will come with training at the restaurant, because each place needs to train people to their own needs and specifications."

Max and Davids, owned by Robin and Steven Katz, the Delaware Valley's only destination kosher restaurant, ( is located at 8120 Old York Road, 150 Yorktown Plaza, Elkins Park, PA 19027 Phone: 215.885.2400. Max and David's also does catering for special events.

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