Monday, February 24, 2014

Spotlight on: Executive Chef Laura Frankel

CKCA is pleased to announce that Laura Frankel of Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering will be the featured chef in the first installment of our new exclusive fine dining series, The Chef’s Table.  

As the founding chef of the acclaimed Shallots Bistro in New York, Chef Frankel was a pioneer in the world of kosher fine-dining. Since then she has moved back to her native Chicago, has written two well-known cookbooks -- Jewish Cooking for All Seasons  and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes -- and has become the executive chef of perhaps one of the best kosher catering operations in the country: Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies. She is also quite active as an educator, sharing her craft and experiences with live audiences across the country and on her website, Laura's Kosher Kitchen.
Chef Frankel with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck
Chef Frankel has been interested in cooking for as long as she can remember. She suggests, half jokingly, that she emerged from her mother’s womb with a full understanding of how ingredients work together. By age 5, young Laura was actively cooking, baking, and playing musical instruments. It was Bashert then that she would grow up to be a professional chef, a career requiring creativity and a passion for working with one’s hands.

Chef Frankel received her professional training from Le Cordon Bleu and The French Pastry School, and credits this education with giving her the skills to plan the elaborate menus that she executes as an executive chef at a large catering operation. Culinary school also taught her the chemistry behind baking. These days, it is chemistry that drives Laura’s philosophy on parve desserts, known to be one of the kosher food world’s greatest challenges. She explains that both sweet and savory parve dishes can be made with natural ingredients like olive oil and nut butters instead of the typical non-dairy substitutes that are commonly used. “I want to do it in a real way, not to create “faux food (using parve whips and margarine) so I prefer to use more natural and seasonal ingredients”.
Chef Laura Frankel 
At Spertus in Chicago, Chef Frankel is fortunate to have as a mentor and employer one of the original “celebrity chefs”. Although Wolfgang Puck may not be well known to the kosher community, he is widely celebrated as one of the innovators that started the American foodie revolution. Aside from owning numerous restaurants around the country, he also has his own cookware line and is one of the go-to chefs for catering the nation’s biggest events, including the Academy Awards. His interest in kosher? "A bit of a mystery", Laura says, but she confirmed that he holds an annual Passover Seder and has an ongoing commitment to keeping kosher kitchens around the country used exclusively to cater kosher events.

Chef Frankel holds the unique distinction of being the only female executive chef of a kosher catering kitchen in the US. Her days are long and intense. The food for her catered affairs are prepared “รก la minute” (at the minute - served fresh), not reheated, as many caterers do with large volume cooking. All dishes are timed to the second. 

Laura is committed to modernizing kosher food, and works hard to eliminate the stereotypes that plague the kosher food world to this day. She uses only the highest quality ingredients, often sourcing her products from small purveyors who specialize in one item. Among her most favorite foods and ingredients are duck--”amazing flavor and crispy skin”-- and bittersweet chocolate; with Callibeut as her preferred brand. She pairs its dark, seductive flavors with luscious olive oil in her signature chocolate mousse. 

Chef Frankel is excited about teaching and partnering with CKCA  -- “why not have a wonderful food experience with intimacy and nice people who will truly appreciate a fun evening”! -- and we are delighted to have her!
Flash Questions for Chef Frankel
1) Favorite Dish: Confit artichokes.
2) Favorite Kitchen Tool: Fish Spatula by Peltex for easy manipulation of delicate food “without brutalizing it”.
2) Her Mentors: Jacquy Pfeiffer, “he is the chef’s chef” and owns the French Pastry School, and Wolfgang Puck: “He has incredible integrity, when he visits he speaks with and shakes hands with the kitchen staff, and has been an incredible mentor to me”.
3) Favorite Celebrity Chef: Lidia Bastianich on PBS, “she has integrity, lets flavors speak for themselves and she cooks for her mother!”
4) Favorite cookbook: Alice Medrich, author of Cocolat. “She understands chocolate better than anyone.”  
6) Best advice for CKCA students and graduates: “Remember that cooking takes love, don’t rush it and never skimp, every ingredient should taste good alone and follow this path in the rest of your life. It will breed integrity and keep you at your best.”

About The Chef’s Table
Witness the creativity and skill of today's best kosher chefs. The Chef’s Table at CKCA offers foodies, connoisseurs, and gourmands alike the opportunity to experience up close and personal a master chef practicing his or her craft. While preparing an exclusive tasting menu, the guest chef for the evening will demonstrate and describe the advanced techniques and culinary secrets that have propelled him or her to the top. A wine pairing for each course is also included. Join CKCA and today’s top kosher chefs at The Chef’s Table for the most exciting dining experience in kosher today!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Discover Israel Through your Tastebuds with Chef Shlomo Schwartz of Your Soul Kitchen

Shlomo Schwartz is the kind of cook whose journey and experiences as a person influence each and every dish he creates. Your Soul Kitchen, the name of his personal chef business captures the intimate approach that Shlomo takes to sharing his culinary passion with others. As a graduate of our Training Program in Culinary Arts, Shlomo is now an integral part of the CKCA team. He is a popular instructor of our private parties & popular date night classes.

Join Shlomo on his latest food adventure as he leads Israel Foodsteps, a 10 day culinary tour of Israel from July 7-16 2015. In this unique experience guests can connect with the heart and soul of Israel's vibrant culture through their palate.

Guests will get a chance to experience boutique hotels, hidden markets, cheese wine & tahini workshops, dining with leading chefs, shabbat in Jerusalem, private food tours, visiting historical sites... and much more! 

For more information contact 347-490-7214 or visit!itinerary/c1hvy.

Learn a little more about Shlomo and his Culinary Background...

A native of Be’er Sheva Israel, Shlomo was raised in a home where the whole family cooked together. The kitchen was his comfort zone and by his teen years he was already cooking and baking for large family gatherings. For the year after serving in the Israeli army, Shlomo volunteered in the Jewish Community of Stockholm, Sweden and found himself back in the kitchen hosting Shabbat meals for locals and tourists. He has continued to host and cook large meals for Shabbat guests and friends, first on his journey back to Israel and now in New York City.

Jerusalem Mixed Plate with Herbed Tabouli Stuffed Zucchini & Green Tahini

After living and working here in NYC for a while and enjoying cooking solely as a hobby, Shlomo decided it was time to dedicate himself fully to his craft. He enrolled in our part-time evening program in the fall of 2011, pushing his passion for cooking up to the front burner. The part time, evening hours allowed him to pursue his education while continuing to work and support himself. This made the transition practical and his dream a reality.

Upon graduating, Shlomo was accepted for a prestigious externship at The Prime Grill, New York’s renowned kosher steakhouse. Working alongside the executive chef, Shlomo learned everything from basic kitchen prep work to the detail and creativity involved with plating dishes in an upscale restaurant. Recognizing his dedication, ambition and skill, Prime Grill entrusted Shlomo to test the recipes that were included in their best selling cookbook, “The Prime Grill CookBook: Redefining the Kosher Experience”. Shlomo was ecstatic to have had such a unique opportunity and acknowledges the importance it played in his professional development. He is especially proud to have been included in the cookbook’s acknowledgements.  

These days, Shlomo has his hands full serving the many diverse clients he has taken on through his personal chef business. Working as a professional chef is the ideal setting for Shlomo. He strives to understand each of his clients' needs, to know who they are, what their food experiences have been and then to create a personalized experience through which he shares the passion and joy he himself has for cooking. As Shlomo says “If you can touch people with food, why not bring them that joy?”

Sabich Salad

Shlomo is excited about his latest foray into the culinary world. He hopes to show others his passion for Israeli food on a culinary journey that they will never forget.

Favorite American cooking show: Chopped,  “Its about a chef creating, not about his failures.”
More on cooking shows: Enjoys Israeli Master Chef since it is about family, tradition and heritage and truly about the people.
Favorite food to cook with: Techina (Tehini).
Hardest food to work with: Fish. ”It needs ongoing attention, is delicate and every moment until it is eaten is critical.”
Shomo's clients’ favorite dishes: Cherry Tomato Confite, his secret - transforming tomatoes by roasting them, and Green Techina, adding spices and herbs--giving Techina new life.
Favorite spice: Zaatar, a Mediterranean spice blend.
Most useful tool in his kitchen: His hands first, then, the almighty food processor since he can do almost anything with it and get different results...vinaigrette, chopped herbs and even flaky dough.
Shlomo’s advice for new CKCA grads:  
- It is a journey and a skill-set to keep developing, so be patient.
- Stay in touch with the school and instructors, they will continue to support you.
- Be yourself, be truthful to yourself and you’ll find your place in the culinary world.