The 21-Year-Old Chef Conquering Jerusalem

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By Menachem Lubinsky, Lubicom CEO

At 21, Avi Katz can do much more than flip omelets.

When I think of a successful chef, a few images come to mind. I picture a crisp, white chef’s hat worn by a middle-aged man, matched with an equally ironed out white apron. Pair that with shocking amounts of coffee, lots of late nights, and of course some unhealthy habits that I associate with the life of a restaurant chef.

Well, imagine my surprise that the guy flipping my onion omelet at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem is only 21 and cooking for 18 years? Yep, he’s been cooking since he was 3 and actually had his own catering business at 12 specializing in exotic soups. With his smart chef’s uniform, he looks every bit the chef you would expect at a 5-Star hotel.

From the moment I met Avi, my chef standards changed. No more do I associate quality food and impeccable plating with older chefs. Instead, I have come to the realization that the millennial generation has changed today’s restaurant standards. With social media being the prominent source for culinary ideas, they have really taken food to the next level, and it’s hard to compete.

Flashback two years earlier, Avi was the winner of the first-ever Kosher Masters Competition at Kosherfest, hosted by Joy of Kosher’s Jamie Geller. With hundreds of onlookers and thousands watching via livestream, Avi tackled a mystery box to create: Herb-Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb with Ribboned Vegetables Rendered in Beef Bone Marrow, and Kielbasa Sausages with Orange Gastrique. I was really out of breath when he went through the ingredients and more so when I tasted his dishes.

Now a master in his own homemade Facon sausages and handmade dried beef jerkies, Avi explained that even simple chicken has to be massaged and treated, much like a human is treated in an expensive sauna.

Quite a resume for a yeshiva boy who hails from Memphis, learned in Miami, went to Lev Hatorah in Israel and in between worked in Pesach programs and even as a sous chef for the Achva West travel program. Here and there he was hired to be a private chef and even got to do a few high-end anniversary dinners. Mentors? Sure, Shelly Ostrow, the well-known chef from Holy Cow in Memphis.  No wonder investors are banging down his door to open a restaurant. But he and his wife are in no hurry.

So what’s next? In the meantime, the Katzes are truly happy in Jerusalem but don’t be surprised if this rising up-and-comer turns up somewhere near you.

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How To Avoid Catastrophe When Grocery Shopping with Kids

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Have you ever come across a mom gliding happily across the supermarket aisles with her brilliantly behaved kids?

This supermom might have a baby in a kangaroo wrap, another in the front seat of the shopping cart, and possibly a third (and very quiet) toddler sitting in the cart itself, surrounded by piles of canned goods.

I have seen moms like that. And if you’re one of them you can stop reading this. Like right now. You will learn nothing here.

But if you are not like that supermom, and you experience a mild panic attack at the thought of towing your kids along with you to the grocery store, check out the ideas below. Some of them might just make shopping with your kids a less hazardous activity than you expect.

  1. Make a list
    Or better yet, make two.To avoid thoughtless purchases and impulse buys (much more likely when you’re busy making sure your toddler doesn’t bolt), make a thorough list of what you need before you leave.
    And for your child, check out these cutesy tootsy grocery list printables that feature photos of common food items you might need. Hand your kid a pencil and one of these printables. Best case: he’ll be so busy on this supermarket scavenger hunt, he’ll forget how badly he needs that “breakfast cereal” — I mean, those tiny cookies that are disguised as breakfast cereal.
  2. Feed your kids. And yourself.
    Eating before shopping is a must.
    It will head off crankiness (for kids and adults), impede the over-purchasing of food you actually don’t need, and prevent impulse purchases of stuff that isn’t even food!
    Yup. One study found that hungry shoppers actually bought more binder clips than non-hungry shoppers (binder clips! really!). Apparently, our mind translates those dratted “I am hungry” signals into “gimme gimme gimme!”. And yes, this also goes for kids and adults.
  3. Plan for snack attacks
    Bring along baggies of snacks that can keep hunger at bay, and keep little fingers occupied.
    Worst snacks: Anything especially greasy, sticky, or that has a very likely possibility of spillage.
    Best snacks: Finger foods that take time and/or fine motor skills to eat. The busier you can keep those pudgy hands, the easier the shopping trip will be.
  4. Avoid the crowds
    The last thing you want when shopping with kids is to be met with disapproving looks from strangers after your kid steers the shopping cart straight into that teetering stack of yogurts. And waiting in a long line after an exhausting shopping trip is not going to be pleasant.
    For kosher grocery shopping, the worst times are Thursday, Friday, and before any yom tov.
    For the large supermarkets, you’ll want to bypass the weekends altogether, as well as those after-work rush hours (usually from 4-6 pm).
    As a general rule, any early weekday hours will have the least crowds. Plus, if you have little kids, shopping in the morning hours that precede naptime will be your best chance of having a smooth trip.
  5. Make it a learning experience
    Get in touch with your inner teacher!
    The grocery store is packed with potential educational experiences that can actually be fun.
    Give these games a try: Supermarket I Spy, ABC or Color Hunts, guessing produce weights and learning to use the scale, reading food labels and store signs.
  6. Don’t forget the fun!
    Food shopping may be a chore, but you can still find ways to make exciting. Especially when you have a kid tagging along.Ways to amp up the entertainment:
  • Download a new game on your phone to be used exclusively while you’re shopping. (Search “kids shopping games” for a bunch of cute and educational shopping/cash register games.)
  • Let each child pick one treat of her own choosing. (Don’t panic! You can guide them with rules on nutrition and price, but try as much as possible to have them feel freedom of choice.)
  • What could be more fun than shopping with a doppelgänger! Invest in a kid-size shopping cart, like this one from Melissa & Doug, and enjoy shopping with your mini-me. (Tread carefully with this one, though. You’ll have to be sure your child has enough patience to stick with the game and follow you around for the duration of the shopping trip, otherwise you might be stuck lugging around a toy cart and a screaming kid.)

And if all else fails, get a babysitter.

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Kosher People of the Google

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By Menachem Lubinsky

We are often referred to as “People of the Book!” It describes our total allegiance to that book, the Torah. So, are we now the “People of the Click?” How else can you explain that in a recent 12-month period, searches for kosher on Google surged by 13.5%, well beyond other food categories and even other non-food searches.

There was a lot more in the presentation by Yarden Horwitz, a former trendspotting expert at Google and co-founder of SPATE. Speaking at the opening session of Kosherfest on Tuesday November 13th, Ms. Horwitz revealed that Google searches before Pesach are through the roof. But growth by 13.5% between August 2017 and August 2018? Wow!

And that’s not all. We are searching for all the kosher versions of the latest trends. We are into Keto foods which are high carbohydrate – low protein foods that are now available in many categories including snacks and even pizza. There has been a 98% growth in Keto snacks. Kosher consumers appear to be searching for the “superfoods” and “food makeovers.” One makeover category is the fascination with “bowl foods” including ACU, Poke, Playa, Buddha, and even egg rolls.

Says Yarden: “More and more consumers are turning to superfoods as a way of dealing with increased anxiety.” Experts define superfoods as popular must have foods in today’s diet. Some examples include dark leafy greens, berries, green tea and legume

So, the news that we use the internet to enhance our kosher way of life is out. It is no wonder that sites like are doing so well. It has done wonders for kashrus. The ability to search for an item and to determine the identity of the certification agency or rabbi is a gamechanger. Most of the kashrus agencies nowadays have apps that allow us to instantly search for a product. I have seen women consult the apps while shopping in a supermarket.

Remember the old days, when you either had to consult with your local rabbi or call a hotline to ask your question, sometimes taking days. It got even more complicated before Pesach when you are in the kitchen and need instant answers.

“Rabbi Google” to the rescue! In many cases, even if you have a more complicated question on kashrus, you might find the answer with a Google search. At least you might find out which rabbi says what. Technology is definitely playing a big role in kashrus education, but according to Ms. Horwitz, people from all walks of life are searching for kosher food products, recipes, eateries, caterers, travel and much more. And not just Jews. A non-Jewish acquaintance told me that she searches for kosher Chanukah gifts for colleagues on-line. The world of kosher has become so vast that it has spilled over to the internet.

A developing facet of the internet is on-line shopping that now includes many kosher supermarkets. People are doing entire orders on-line for delivery to their doorsteps or doing on-line orders for pick-up, saving them valuable time negotiating the aisles of the supermarket. To quote one supermarket executive: “The internet has become like another branch of my store without the overhead.”

Ms. Horwitz’s work as a trendspotter is an enormous asset to the kosher food industry. Manufacturers can produce the products that kosher consumers want. Retailers can stock the items that are “hot” and perhaps use merchandising to flag their being up-to-date with products that are “in.” It can even be beneficial to restaurants and caterers who can plan menus accordingly. Anyone for kosher gnocchi? Had it three times in the last two weeks at simchas.

According to Yarden, there is a flip side. Remember when Kale was the hottest trend in foods? Apparently, it is not so hot anymore. This means that trendspotting can equally predict foods that are on the decline and perhaps have trended and are out. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the popularity of foods is also on a cycle with some lasting longer than others. Nor should it be a surprise that in kosher as well, there are ups and downs.

Finally, what you learn from a trendspotter like Yarden Horwitz is that one size does not fit all. The Millennials have brought back many foods that were considered passé. Even herring had a resurgence that only 20 years ago seemed on the decline. Today, herring is a category with many applications that go well beyond the schmaltz. Or take cholent and kugel that has emerged as kind of “superfood” in kosher that goes well beyond being the traditional hot food on Shabbos. Imagine Googling for the best cholent in a given neighborhood.

You might say that Google has by far replaced the “word of mouth” that was the customary way of transmitting information on your favorite kosher food. If Ms. Horwitz has her way, we will be able to predict what new kosher foods you will enjoy and which foods you no longer care for. Wow, that’s progress!

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