Reinventing Kosher Cuisine

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Rosh Hashanah is less than two weeks away, and this will be the first New Year for the new Kosher by Kitchensurfing program. Headed by chef-rabbi Yuda Schlass, our kosher program features both chefs with extensive kosher cooking backgrounds alongside chefs who have been trained by our team and who work exclusively with glatt kosher products.

Chef Eric Bolyard’s culinary career has included stints in Michelin-starred kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, but his latest creative challenge brought him to a new frontier: Yuda Schlass’s loft in Crown Heights.

In 2005, Eric shelved a business management degree on a hunch that he wanted to cook in restaurants, and soon found himself in Europe: first, in Basque country working the grill station at the legendary Asador Etxebarri, then at London’s St. John Bread & Wine, before returning to the U.S. to work at Daniel Humm’s celebrated Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan.

At the end of last year, Eric left the kitchen “to explore different avenues of alternative dining,”  including the launch of his supper club Tasting Society, and private gigs with Kitchensurfing. Six months into his restaurant hiatus, Kitchensurfing’s Yuda Schlass contacted Eric about preparing one half of an eight-course, all-Kosher tasting menu. And so began an illuminating culinary adventure that has confirmed many of the principles that define his work as a chef.

“I was bar mitzvahed,” he says, but “had zero experience with kosher cuisine”—a common refrain from those outside of the kosher community. Which brings us to a definition of terms: for the purposes of Kosher by Kitchensurfing, “Kosher” means more than avoiding certain combinations of meat and dairy.

Let’s start in the kitchen. Kosher meals must also be prepared in a kosher kitchen, with Kosher utensils and served only on kosher dishes. What makes a dish or utensil Kosher? The second your salad spoon touches non-kosher food, it is no longer kosher. If a milk spoon is used to mix a hot meat dish, that spoon will no longer be kosher. That’s why kosher households have entire sets of kitchenwares—including dishwashers—for exclusive use in kosher dairy or kosher meat preparation.

In fact, the logistics surrounding equipment and prep time are often the biggest challenge to chefs working in a kosher setting. “I’m very particular about how I store my mise en place, so if they don’t have enough quart containers, I start to freak out,” Eric jokes (he’s since started stocking extra disposable quarts specifically for kosher gigs).

All meats served at Kosher meals are certified “glatt kosher,” meaning they have been slaughtered properly according to kashrut, Jewish dietary law, and have undergone additional examination by a rabbi. Produce requires scrutiny as well. In order to be certified as kosher, all vegetables and grains must be inspected to assure that no insects are present at the time of sale or preparation. All other items—including oils, dairy items, and breads—must contain only kosher ingredients and be marked with a kosher symbol.

For Eric, those rules aren’t an obstacle. “For me, it’s a welcome challenge,” he explains, “It opens up the floor for other new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of without that constraint—I don’t like to use that word “constraint” because it’s not necessarily a constraint, it’s more of an opportunity.”

Eleven Madison Park, renowned as much for its food as its uncompromising approach to hospitality, prepared Eric for his work with kosher clients. “They actually make multiple sauces for almost every dish,” he explains, referencing the daily preparation required just in case a single diner has, for example, a gluten intolerance. “I’ve kind of been brought up with the mindset that you don’t have to sacrifice [the] complexity of a dish just because there’s some sort of alternative dietary restriction.”

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The goal of Yuda’s supper club—to introduce New York’s Kosher community to food they’d never tasted before—resonated with Eric. “Having a person say ‘I would have never thought of this’ is very rewarding to me,” he says. “It’s a very rewarding experience. It’s revelatory to see a very strong opinion being swayed in another direction.”

Consider his menu: ocean trout paired with charred white asparagus, pistachio and salmon roe; lamb chops served with modernist flourishes like rhubarb agrodolce and fennel purée; and his take on panzanella, featuring both dark rye and orange blossom “ice.” Each dish adheres the simple principles of Eric’s culinary philosophy—something familiar with something unexpected, essentially—and would also seem right at home on an Eleven Madison Park menu. With confidence that sourcing and preparation conform to kosher requirements, Eric’s attention returns to the plate, where it should be.

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Ultimately, kosher cooking is about creatively showcasing ingredients at their best, in a new, unexpected light—a goal that has nothing to do with kitchen equipment, dietary laws, or religious observances. Take Eric’s word for it: “Tradition is equated with limitation, and I don’t think that needs to be the case.”

Learn more about about Kitchensurfing’s kosher chefs, and host a meal of your own. For more details, contact Yuda at kosher@kitchensurfing.com.


If You’ve Cooked in Michelin-starred Kitchens, What Do You Serve at Your Wedding?

First, the bride: Jessica Yang is a pastry chef who’s spent time at three exquisite restaurants: Per Se, Guy Savoy, and Chef’s Table. She grew up in California and studied chemical engineering and art history at Berkeley—and has since turned that scientist’s precision toward pastry. She met Robert in Paris while they were both working at the three Michelin-starred Guy Savoy.

Second, the groom: Robert Compagnon is the less-sweet side of the duo, and developed his culinary skills at Guy Savoy, Ko, Alain Ducasse’s Le Jules Verne, and Brushstroke. Robert grew up between Paris, London, and New York and studied Japanese at Columbia University in New York—which lead to one of his first professional cooking jobs at a ramen shop in Japan. He spent four years cooking in some of Paris’ best kitchens before returning to New York.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang and Robert Compagnon

Most people can count the number of times they’ve had good food at a wedding on one hand. So, how do you predict a catering disaster? Easy: beware the needlessly complicated menu in an unfamiliar environment. Fancy and good are not synonyms. More than two different entrées being served? Bad idea. Dishes that require precise timing to get the temperature right? Bad idea. Professional cooks know this because cooks see the carefully-orchestrated chaos that is dinner service every day of the week. If good cooks know this, what do they serve at their own wedding?

Here’s how Jessica and Robert are tackling that challenge.


Make Way for Late Summer Reds

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We’ve hit the backlash point of the summer: your jorts are looking a little worse for wear, the novelty of grilled meats has all but worn off, and you’re longing for a cool breeze that isn’t accompanied by an arriving subway train. Here are four red wines to drink when you’re over summer whites and pinks (and the weather hasn’t gotten the hint yet). 

1. Sweet Shiraz

The sugar to this Australian red’s typical spice, sweet shiraz is mouth-watering and berry-filled when chilled, with chocolate notes as it comes to room temperature. Great with anything from the grill, or just sitting on the fire escape, especially with its $10 price tag.

Suggested bottle: Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz

2. Barbera d’Alba & Barbera d’Asti 

Nebbiolo’s lesser cousin, the barbera grape is grown in the valleys of northern Italy. Its light tannins and high acidity make it an obvious choice for chilling. Meant to be enjoyed young, it’s unnecessary to pay more than $30 for a decent bottle. With its sour cherry and strawberry notes, it’s great with grilled meats, a fennel salad, or anything balsamic.

Suggested bottle: Hilberg Pasquero Vareij Vino da Tavola Rosso

3. Frappato

Frappato has long been utilized only to lessen the heft of full-bodied Italian wines, but some brave young vintners have started letting the fresh fruit flavors of this Sicilian grape stand on their own.

Suggested bottle: Arianna Occhipinti’s 2012 Tamí Frappato

4. Beaujolais

Easy-drinking Beaujolais had its heyday in the US thirty years ago. These days it’s frequently overlooked as great late-summer food wine. As great with a pile of salted tomatoes as with a juicy turkey burger, its low tannins and strong berry flavors are an easy swap for that rosé you’ve been guzzling.

Suggested bottle: Potel-Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes


Kelley Peters is Kitchensurfing’s in-house wine expert, she writes about wining, dining, and breaking things at Homefaking.


Zucchini Recipes: What To Do With All The Extra Summer Squash

It’s that time in the summer, where there is just. Too. Much. Zucchini. Honestly, where did it all come from? At this point, it seems like we may have exhausted our summer squash recipe folder. But have no fear! Two all-star Kitchensurfing chefs have generously shared their tips. Below, New York’s Dianne de la Veaux and Briana Ryan of Los Angeles share creative uses for summer squash.

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Tarragon-Lemon Summer Squash Soup
by Briana Ryan

INGREDIENTS

1 large yellow squash, sliced and quartered
2 green onions (scallions), light green and white parts, chopped
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon goat’s milk butter or coconut oil (to keep it vegan)
½ tablespoon olive oil or additional coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups vegetable broth
Juice of ½ large lemon
½ cup coconut milk

1. In a soup pot, sauté the squash and onion in  butter and olive oil (or coconut oil, if preparing vegan) until onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic in the last minute or so.

2. Season to taste with black pepper, add tarragon, then pour in the vegetable broth and lemon juice and stir.

3. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender all the way through.

4. Remove from heat and add coconut milk.

5. Purée about half the soup in a high-speed blender or food processor then return to pot.

Serve immediately, and garnish with additional tarragon, chives, shredded Parmesan cheese, and croutons, if you like.

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Zucchini Pesto Spirals by Dianne de la Veaux

Slice one or two zucchini lengthwise very thinly — a mandoline is helpful for this. Toss the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a single layer for 10-25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned, but not falling apart.  

Once the slices are cool enough to handle, schmear some pesto on each one and roll it up into a two-bite spiral! This is delicious as a snack or on top of a bed of greens for an appetizer.

Enjoy these recipes? Try them out and share the final product with us on Instagram - tag @kitchensurfing and #KSgrams!


Labor Day Cocktails from Chef Adam Lewis

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So far, we’ve focused on the best food for Labor Day. When you’re daydreaming about backyard feasts with a chef running the grill, it’s easy to forget about an important element of every great summer party: the beverages.

That’s why we asked Los Angeles chef Adam Lewis for upgraded summer cocktail recipes to field test. We’re happy to pass his latest creations, the “New School Kentucky Mule” and “Stoned Sangria,” on to you.

Read the full recipes below (we know we had you at “Stoned Sangria”).


#UberCHEF in Pictures

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Last weekend, we joined forces with Uber NYC to bring on-demand chefs to the Hamptons. With lunch and dinner services completely sold out, we fed almost 200 hungry weekenders at 20 parties across the South Fork.

Here are a few of our favorite shots from the weekend. Pictured above, that’s Chef Ygael Tresser and his grilled kale.


Introducing #UberCHEF: On-Demand Chefs in the Hamptons

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Picture this: it’s an ideal summer Saturday in the Hamptons, and there’s a pop-up cookout in your own backyard with a private chef behind the grill. Sound good? This Saturday, you can make it happen.

We’re partnering with Uber to bring on-demand chefs to the Hamptons — specifically Bridgehampton, Southampton, East Hampton, and Montauk. Here’s how #UberCHEF works:

1. Open Your Uber App

2. Click “Request the CHEF”

3. If there’s a chef available in your area, you’ll get a phone call to confirm your location, party size (6-16 guests), and to check on any special diets or allergies.

4. You’ll be billed for $35 a person via the Uber app. No cash!

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So, what’s on the menu? We’ve worked with our chefs to develop four-course summer menus that go well beyond your standard grilled fare. Your chef will arrive with everything they need to take your party to the next level.

When your chef arrives, you and your friends could be enjoying dishes like skirt steak, grilled ahi tuna, or Korean-style grilled short ribs, each with mountains of sides featuring everything from summer produce to fresh lobster. Don’t worry vegetarians, each menu comes with meat-free options.

Not in the Hamptons? Follow @Kitchensurfing on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with our on-demand chefs. Check out #UberCHEF to see all the action.


Seattle Dispatch: Chefs Weigh In On Pacific Northwest Cuisine

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We’re still getting to know Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Aside from the obvious (salmon, Dungeness crab), people have a wide range of opinions about what constitutes “Pacific Northwest Cuisine.” There’s no simple answer, but to take a closer look at the question, we consulted an outstanding resource: our chefs.

Kitchensurfing Seattle chefs are regional experts who have been cooking and eating in the Pacific Northwest for decades. What is Pacific Northwest cuisine? Chefs Thad LymanMeredith Abbott, and Tom Rhyneer weigh in:

What is Pacific Northwest cuisine to you?

Meredith: PNW cuisine to me is preparing amazing ingredients simply to highlight their greatness. I love going to the many of the farmers’ markets or neighborhood grocery stores to check out what local produce they have in or find a delicious new cheese from one of Washington’s many creameries.  

Tom: To me, Pacific Northwest cuisine is all about the bounty of this majestic slice of the world. From the luscious seafood unique to the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound to the produce of fresh chanterelles, morels and the cherries and apples of eastern Washington. The commitment to sustainable farming and ranching practices and artisanal  products make it a culinary playground.

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What makes the food and culinary scene in the region unique?

Meredith: The People of the PNW are curious. They want to know everything about their food and drink, where it came from, who grew it and how it was prepared.  We celebrate everything local and aren’t afraid to brag about it.

Thad: What makes us special, huh? I’d say it’s the perceived remoteness of the region. Sure, you can get anything you want from the modern global economy, but we don’t want to. We try harder to use the best of our region and consumers are willing to try anything once or twice.

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How does the region impact your cooking?

Thad: I’ve found my comfort zone coming back to the PNW. I always did “pretty” plates in the big cities and wine country, but I’m happier when I’m cooking the style of food we do around here. I’m home, but I’m a more polished version of the Alaska boy who cooked hundreds of pounds of fish a week. Don’t get me wrong, I can still throw a blade through a fish like nobody’s business. But now it’s about the work I can do with it afterwards. I also have the ability to make sure my fish is better than my competitor’s because of our long-term relationships with vendors. They are our partners, not just the guys I get my carrots or meat from. We respect what they do and they respect us, so we all work towards the same end game - You having the best meal possible.

Meredith: I have become much more of an adventurous eater since being in Seattle. I love getting inspired by new flavors and textures I experience and turning them into new dishes. I have started learning the art of canning, dabbled in cheese making, lived on a farm for a week and tried my hand at cider brewing. There are an amazing number of craftspeople out here who are willing to teach and I am taking full advantage of it.

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Want to get a taste of PNW cuisine? Get started by checking out menus from Meredith, Tom, Thad, and the rest of our Seattle chefs.


Expert Tips for the Private Chef

As you know, we recently launched Kitchensurfing in Seattle. With a whole new crop of amazing chefs in the city, we asked two of our veteran Kitchensurfing chefs some common questions about their private cheffing protocol.

There’s so much that goes in to being an private chef: from logistics and marketing to plating, presentation, and interacting with your clients and their guests. For some expert tips on managing the private chef gig, we turned to Kitchensurfing chefs Josh Zinderman of Los Angeles and Chuck Valla of New York City. Here’s what they had to say:

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Time Management: How early do you arrive to a client’s house?

Josh: I arrive about an hour before or earlier if there is something special or extra that needs to be done. It’s better to have extra time and wait, than arrive later and already be in the weeds!

Chuck: Always arrive early! When I have to travel quite far, I give extra time time for traffic. One day I had a gig in East Hampton, over 2.5 hours away. But it was the day before July 4th, so I left the city 6 hours early. I got to the client’s house 3 minutes late, but they understood. Couldn’t imagined if I left the city later than that.

Equipment: How many knives do you bring to a gig?

Josh: Just a chef’s knife. Anything requiring a specialty knife should be prepped beforehand. If everything is prepped well, I barely need my knife.

Chuck: I only bring my favorite 8” chef’s knife.

Client Engagement: How much do you interact with the client in their home?

Josh: This is really a case-by-case issue. Some clients want to see and hear everything and specifically see how each dish is made. Others have their own agenda or entertainment and don’t want a lengthy speech. It’s fairly easy to tell though, once you arrive.

ChuckI always try to make conversation with client when they are around in kitchen. Tell them about your menus, special ingredients, or a story behind your dishes to make your client even more excited about the meal you are preparing. 

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For Fun: What do you enjoy most about cooking for people in their home as opposed to in a restaurant?

Josh: Cooking in a private residence is a really unique experience and is more intimate than a restaurant setting. You really get to see how people respond to your food. It’s pretty cool to see people’s reactions and they are so amazed to experience it in their homes. It provides a whole other level of service.

Chuck: When I cook at client’s space, the atmosphere of their kitchen makes me feel I’m cooking at home. I enjoy exploring their kitchen and trying to survive with equipment that is not familiar to my cuisine. It’s always a fun challenge for me.

Thank you to chefs Josh and Chuck! Got questions for the chefs? Share them in the Global Chef Community on Facebook.


You Know You Worked in a Restaurant Kitchen When…

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We all think we know what it’s like to be a chef in a restaurant. Because after all, we’ve watched many seasons of Top Chef Restaurant Wars. But as they say, “you just don’t know.” To get the real dish on the quirky ins and outs of being a real restaurant chef, we turned to the Kitchensurfing pros with restaurant experience to get their insider nuggets on what it’s like to work in a real restaurant kitchen.

Here are 23 signs you’ve worked as a restaurant chef:

1. When you’re in public and you yell out “behind!” to strangers… but nobody moves.

2. You drink out of a quart container at home.

3. You cannot stand a messy fridge.

4. And you must label your pantry items, even at home. (Cut, not torn masking tape!)

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5. You always carry at least 1 sharpie on you.

6. You have no feeling in your fingers - touching hot surfaces doesn’t faze you anymore.

7. Your arms have more stripes than a zebra from being burned on oven racks.

8. Staff meal was your ONLY meal of the day.

9. Even at home, you eat standing up.

10. Your significant other tells you that you’ve been talking in your sleep about searing meat and adding garlic

11. 1 AM is an early Saturday night dinner.

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12. You can’t wait for Monday because that’s when your weekend begins.

13. And you don’t even know what to do with yourself if you’re off on a Friday or Saturday.

14. You dress up to go to work, change into whites, then dress back up just to go home again, so you feel like a civilized person for a few hours (perhaps only the ladies).

15. You have zero tolerance for dull knives.

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16. Your knife roll is worth more than the car you drive.

17. Nobody will cook for you because they’re intimidated, but you are just so grateful for any chance for a home-cooked meal.

18. You can’t go to bed without an ice cold beer.

19. You hear the ticket printer in your sleep.

20. Your signature cologne smells of seared foie gras and deep fried anything.

21. The old adage that the “customer is always right” doesn’t mean anything when they tell you they are allergic to the colors green, red, or orange.

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22. You see your fellow line cook three times as much as your significant other.

23. You roll your eyes when someone not in the restaurant industry complains about a 50-hour work week.

In sum, working in a restaurant is simply crazy. As Boston chef Chris Hallahan says: “Working as a chef is one of the most crazy jobs to have. You toil for years to learn a skill set and the ability to create experiences with food, only to have the majority of your guests ask for substitutions and inane changes that suck the soul out of your handwork. To be cooking at a high level and executing professionally requires a level of sacrifice that is unreal. Non-industry friends and family don’t understand why you can’t answer your phone Friday at 7pm or come to your BBQ Saturday at 4pm.”

Special shout outs to Kitchensurfing chefs who contributed their insights to this piece: Sung Kim, Tim Fahy, Evelyn Garcia, Chris Hallahan, Josh Zinderman, Eric Bolyard, Lori Hill, and Jennie Trinh