The Next Great Kosher Chef

Jasmine - the Winner!!

On Sunday, in Long Island City, the Next Great Kosher Chef was crowned. The Centre for Kosher Culinary Arts held the final part of their competition yesterday in Long Island City. In front of a TV crew, a crowd of reporters and select guests, and three well known judges, three contestants passed over many culinary hurdles in quest of the title of “Next Great Kosher Chef” and the $5,000 scholarship to the CKCA.

And what tough challenges they were.

The first challenge of the day was a written examination testing the contestants on their general knowledge and kitchen math, culminating with an essay question.

Batsheva works hard on her piping

Part two consisted of four sections, ALL to be completed within 15 minutes. Firstly, a dozen eggs had to be checked and separated, then the egg whites beaten until they foamed so well that none of the mixture would drip out when turning the bowl upside down. (I couldn’t have done that. Not in 15 minutes, not in an hour. That’s what a hand mixer is for). Secondly a handful of carrots needed to be peeled and then

The bloodthirsty mandolin

chopped with a very sharp mandolin. (poor Josh – the only male contestant – he mandolined three of his fingers. Blood everywhere!!) Thirdly, the aspiring chefs had to spoon butter-cream batter into piping bags and write a specific phrase six times over, in butter-cream (I just wanted to dip my finger in to the rich red butter cream and have a taste. It looked so scrummy). The final task of this section was scaling and gutting a sea bass. (Euw. They touched a fish. It just looked so absolutely slimey).

Josh gets cracking

The contestants then had a timed clean-up on which they were also graded. Then it was time for a sensory deprivation challenge where all the would-be chefs had to identify specific foods by smell alone. (Would you be in a kitchen, blindfolded, ear plugs in, and hands behind your back, trusting that they won’t put anything nefarious up to your nose? These contestants were very brave!).

The short order part of the competition put the chefs to the test. They had to fry up and plate as many over-easy eggs as possible in ten minutes without breaking the yolk. Sounds easy, right? Not when you are under pressure!!

The final challenge was the hardest one. The contestants had 60 minutes to create a main dish with two sides from surprise ingredients – the Market Basket Challenge. They were all furnished with the same basics, and had a grocery table to pick extra ingredients from. It was awesome to see the different dishes the chefs came up with based on chicken, squash, and zucchini.  We were sitting closest to Jasmine’s work station and the turmeric and cumin aromas just totally tickled our taste buds.

The chefs set to work, with assistants at their side, chopping and searing, frying and baking. The aromas arising from each dish were so tantalizing. The judges walked around watching what was happening at each cooking station and asking some pertinent questions. Half an hour into the final part, the judges announced that the kitchen assistants had to switch stations. Things happen in a kitchen and you have to learn to roll with the punches! The contestants did not miss a beat. As time ticked away the chefs hurried to finish so that the judges could render their verdicts on the cooked entrée.

The three finished and plated meals looked and smelled so appetizing -  those of us in the spectator seats were a little envious that the judges got to have a taste of everything and we did not. However we were treated to a delicious sushi lunch courtesy of kosher.com. The judges graded the food on presentation, creativity and taste. The chefs were also graded on their cleanliness and organization.

Chef Avrum Wiseman

The MC for the day was Chef Avrum Wiseman – he did an amazing job. He was so animated and excited to be there. He was joined in his judging / grading  / tasting duties by Chef Philippe Kammerlé who seemed to be enjoying his role in the competition. These two need to have their own cooking show together. They were so very entertaining!

The three judges for the Market Basket Challenge part of the competition were Jamie Geller of Quick and Kosher fame, Chief Foodie Officer for kosher.com, Seth Warshaw of the ETC Steakhouse, and Elan Kornblum, CEO of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine.

The three contestants – Batsheva Goldstein, Jasmine Einalhori and Josh Pashman– were all winners! They all worked so very hard and gave the competition their all. However, an overall winner had to be chosen, and after much deliberation Jasmine was announced the winner. The two runners up who performed so well walked away with a beautiful gift basket each from Kosher.com and a $250 gift certificate to classes at the CKCA.

It was a wonderful day – and I learned so much more about the industry in which I now work. I have never been in a professional kitchen like this – part of me kept expecting Gordon Ramsey to walk in and start yelling!!

(A briefer version of this article has been posted on my work blog – check it out!!)

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  1. Ari says:

    Enjoyed reading this. Fantastic reportage!

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