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?
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?
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.