Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spotlight on Liz Alpern, Gefilteria Co-Founder, Entrepreneur and Recipe Developer!

Photo Credit Liz Reuven

With a passion to elevate gefilte fish’s lowly reputation, fishmonger Liz Alpern of The Gefilteria has successfully pushed her business's food out of the jar and onto store shelves worldwide. A few minutes with Liz reveals that any Kosher Career is possible with passion, drive and the skills to succeed.  

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

Best way to describe your education in culinary and how you got to where you are:
I learned a lot through experimenting on my own, and then got more formal training testing recipes with cookbook author Joan Nathan. I apprenticed in a pastry kitchen in Washington, DC and assisted a chef with cooking classes. I also worked on a Vietnamese food truck and have done a lot of catering.

Since starting a business of my own, Gefilteria, I’ve jumped into new food challenges regularly and learned from many chefs and business owners. Overall, I think that while my more formal training was really important, the most important thing is that I constantly put myself in situations where I try new things and learn from those around me.

What was your inspiration to do what you do?
It’s hard to pinpoint a single inspiration, but I can say that I’ve always been inspired by Jewish history (I was a Jewish history major). In the kitchen, I’m constantly inspired by flavors that make me think, feel and remember. So of course, making Jewish food makes a lot of sense!

What was your first job in the food business? second job?
When I was 15 years old I worked at the local kosher bakery in the town where I grew up. I was a counter girl, but I begged to help in the kitchen and sometimes got to ice cookies and dip strawberries in chocolate.

My second job in the food business was in college, when I started a challah business from my apartment! It was called Challah Back Bakers and people still talk to me about it.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position...
Everyday I cook, write, experiment, research and generally get my hustle on in the arena of Ashkenazi cuisine.
Photo Credit Molly Goren

 What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something start as an idea and ultimately become something I serve to an excited and eager customer.

What do you find the most challenging?
Business is all about constantly growing and pivoting. You can never get too comfortable, and that can be challenging.

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
Never assume anything. Every major mistake I’ve made in the kitchen or in business in general was because I made an assumption and didn’t actually check to see that my assumption was correct. For example, I never assume something tastes good, even if I used the same recipe as last time. There are so many variables! Or, I never assume that someone who bought something once will buy it again. They might’ve liked it, but I still need to work to keep them interested.

What are you passions outside of cooking/baking?
I’m passionate about working out and staying healthy, which is certainly challenging sometimes. I’m also passionate about maintaining a community of friends and family around me.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
I have to say that I hope to be known as the co-author of an amazing cookbook! My book comes out in 2016 (The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, co-authored with Jeffrey Yoskowitz) and I want to be known for having offered an expansive and exciting take on Ashkenazi cuisine!

The original Gefilteria Gefilte Fish

Favorite food to eat? Soup, any kind!
Favorite food to cook? Soup, any kind!
Favorite kitchen tool? Immersion blender.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spotlight on Naomi Nachman, Personal Chef and Radio Show Host!

Photo Credit: Melinda Strauss

You’ll have to pick up your pace to catch up with Naomi Nachman. This Aussie Gourmet is a woman of many culinary talents and is always on the go. We took the opportunity to reverse her role as host of Table for Two and put her in the interviewee hot seat.

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

Best way to describe how you developed your culinary skills and how that got you where you are today.
I don’t have any formal culinary training and started in the industry by cooking for friends and family. I took many cooking classes, read a whole lot and believe it or not learned quite a bit from the Food Network. My job as host of Table for Two at the Nachum Segal Network was natural for me. I’ve always been comfortable with public speaking and giving cooking classes – I’m a good talker!

What was your first job in the food business?    
I gave a cooking class on how to make Sushi at the Educational Alliance.
My 2nd job was getting hired to cook for a family 3 nights a week and I did that for 5 years.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position...
I wear many chef hats. I'm a personal chef, caterer, food writer, blogger, radio show host, cooking instructor and then of course I'm a mother, wife and true foodie.

Describe the greatest accomplishment of your career so far?
Being asked by Nachum Segal to host a radio show and being asked by RAM Caterers to run their culinary program this Pesach.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Sharing my love of food with others.

What do you find the most challenging?
Paperwork and billing. I really prefer to be creative – and, I hate washing dishes.

What is the most important lesson you have ever learned on the job?
Being appreciative of your help since they help make you who you are. Treat them well.

What are you passions outside of cooking/baking?
Hanging out with my family. I’m very into family time.

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
Healthy, fresh, delicious food and being the first host of a radio show about kosher food.

Describe the best meal you ever had…
I’ve had some good ones – especially lately. I had a fantastic meal with friends at Pardes. I’m also still dreaming about the beef tartar at ChagallBistro and at The Loft Steakhouse. I enjoy anything that has duck in it.

What advice do you have for the students in our professional culinary and pastry programs?
Experiment a lot and wear super comfortable shoes. Really be prepared to work hard and give it your all. Know that you are your own brand and it has to shine through to your customers. If you share your passion things will happen.

Tell us more about the culinary program you’re running in Florida this Passover.
I’ll be teaching 2 cooking classes a day and I’m creating my own Passover cook-booklet for the participants. And of course...I can’t wait to schmooze with people.

How does the food experience differ in the USA from Australia?
There is hardly any kosher food there! But kosher pop ups and fabulous restaurants are starting to surface in Sydney.

What’s your goal for your radio show?
I love planning out each show and I get more knowledgeable from all of the people I interview. Being part of the Nachum Segal Network  is amazing.

Do you feel like a celebrity?
A little bit. People stop me in different places...sometimes they even ask for a photo! They recognize my voice!

Describe the biggest mistake you have ever made on the job.
I was cooking for a school, all the grades helped for the shabbaton. I stepped away from the brownies for a second and every single brownie burned to a crisp so we had to order from a bakery.

The Best Product to Ever Go Kosher: Oreos. 
Favorite Food to Eat: Meat – any kind, I’m a total carnivore. 
Favorite Food to Cook: I love making appetizers of any kind.
Favorite Cookbook: I love Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef: Guy Fieri, because of his passion.
Favorite Kitchen Tool: Parchment paper, it's my best friend in the kitchen.

For more on Naomi check out her blog at

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Dini Klein, Personal Chef, “YouTuber” and founder of Dini Delivers

After graduating from CKCA Dini turned her passion for cooking and creative approach to food into a thriving personal chef business. Read on to hear more about her path to success!

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

What first got you started in cooking?
Growing up I took a myriad of lessons in creative areas. I grew up thinking that I could create different things from simple ingredients. It all started when I was in college and really started experimenting with cooking in food.

Best way to describe your education in culinary and how that got you to where you are:
I graduated from CKCA’s Culinary Arts Program. That gave me the skills, credibility and the confidence to start working as a professional chef. I loved working with food every day and plating really tapped into my creative self. My very first client was referred to me by CKCA and it’s been growing ever since.

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
I interned at The Prime Grill in NYC (unpaid) and I've been running my own business. I also started a food blog that turned into a personal chef business. 

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position:
I'm a personal chef specializing in kosher, mostly healthy, and custom-made beautiful food. I cook for four regular clients a week and some randoms. I focus on preparing healthy food for the weekdays, holidays, parties, and Shabbat.

I also have a YouTube channel called Dini Delivers and an Instagram account where I document all my cooking adventures and post some of my favorite recipes. 

How has CKCA helped you to develop your career?  
My first client was referred to me by CKCA and I will forever be grateful for that. They also set me up with an internship at The Prime Grill which was great experience and perfect for my resume. Most recently, CKCA sent me an intern to help me out over the summer. She has since turned in to an employee at Dini Delivers. Thank you CKCA!

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Hearing positive feedback from clients and seeing the impact I make on their daily lives. 

What do you find the most challenging?
Running a personal chef business is stressful and physically exhausting. What I find most difficult is making sure all of my clients are happy and satisfied. Because everything I do is completely customized and no two orders are the same on a given day, I need to make sure that everything that leaves my kitchen is perfect and everyone is happy. My name is on the line every day and Dini must “deliver” every single time. 

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job?
Stay organized!

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I was invited to a Shabbat meal that I catered. It was fun sitting among guests who were talking about the food but had no idea I had cooked it!

What are you passions outside of cooking/baking?
Playing piano, pretending like I can sing, staying active by spinning, working out and chasing my 1 year old. 

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?
Taking beautiful, fresh and healthy ingredients, and creating unique meals for the whole family to enjoy. I want to inspire people to eat better and enjoy the food they're putting in their bodies.  

Describe the best meal you ever had:
I had dinner at Citron and Rose in Philadelphia a few years back and everything we ordered was outrageous! I remember my husband and I ordered an entree for 2 and it was the largest piece of steak I had ever seen. I'm not a huge meat girl.... but this was succulent, flavorful and so memorable. I especially love their unique spins on traditional Jewish foods. So creative and so inspiring!

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef?
Only do it if you love it. It's a tough industry and is definitely not for everybody. You need to love it so much that even after a long exhausting day on your feet, you want to wake up and do it all over again. For me it's the creativity that drives me. Every day I prepare new dishes, create new menus and learn something new. That's why I love it!

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years?
It's incredible to me how sophisticated the kosher food world has become. With kosher food bloggers, high-end restaurants, unique kosher products etc. the bar is set and we keep getting better and better. I love how we're finding ways to make typically non-kosher food kosher- fake shrimp, beef bacon... The sky is the limit and I can't wait to see and be a part of what the next few years will bring. 

What is your long term career goal? 
To have a cooking show on TV :)

What is the most important lesson that you ever learned on the job? 
Don't get flustered or overwhelmed. "You will get it all done. You always do!" 

Describe the biggest mistake you ever made on the job.
I usually deliver all the food to my clients and this one time I had someone deliver for me. I didn't properly label each bag and some bags got delivered to the wrong clients. It was a puzzle sorting it all out and I was mortified since one of them was a new client, but it all worked out. Mistakes happen and we learn from it!

Describe the greatest accomplishment of your career so far. 
Turning a nothing blog into a thriving business and continuing to grow a Dini Delivers brand. Thinking back to when I first started, I'm very proud of myself for sticking with it and making it work!

What advice do you have for current students?
Do internships, start a blog, explore the food world to see where you fit in best and where you will be happiest. 

Favorite food to eat: Dumplings-obsession 
Favorite food to cook: Tofu-it's a blank canvas! 
Favorite Cookbook: Plenty More by Ottolenghi
Favorite Cooking Show / Celeb Chef: Giada De Laurentiis 

Favorite kitchen tool: Immersion blender- it’s a life saver!