Kosher cooking entrepreneur Jamie Geller speaks to COLlive about leaving a career in TV, the Shluchim couple who believed in her and what's more important in food: look or taste.
By COLlive reporter
What happens when you take a powerhouse television producer and introduce them to a kosher kitchen?
Meet Jamie Geller, a former producer for television networks (HBO and CNN) who turned cookbook author and entrepreneur ("mompreneur" if you ask her).
From being "the bride who knew nothing" - a title she used for her 2 first cookbooks - she now runs an empire which launched the bi-monthly print magazine "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" about kosher food and lifestyle. She is also the face of JoyofKosher.com, a website for recipe sharing and social networking.
She recently spoke with COLlive.com about becoming frum, diversifying the kosher menu and the Chabad couple who believed in her.
With the launch of the magazine and website, are you now the bride who knows it all?
I will never know it all. That's why I keep experimenting, writing and publishing.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Abington. Although I went to the Solomon Shechter School in Elkins Park and had a good sense of Jewish identity, we didn't practice yiddishkeit.
How did you become frum?
Well, my family moved to Florida. We lived far from Bal Harbour, yet friends invited us over to The Shul, and let me tell you, when we went there it was deeply inspiring. Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar and his Rebbetzin took such an interest in me.
Rabbi Lipskar was always supportive of my career in television, and he would hope for me to be on CNN to notify the world that Moshiach is coming. I went to New York University and got an internship at CNN.
You went on to win some awards for production. What made you leave?
When I was working for HBO I started to get more sensitive to issues relating to tznius. And at some point I looked around and found that most of my colleagues were either never married or on their second marriage. We were working 12 hours a day. It's not that we had no life. Work was our life.
How did the transition to food happen?
After my marriage, when I was pregnant with our first child, I was given a promotion to executive producer and a 4 day work week, effective when I return from maternity leave. But then, our daughter was born, and I couldn't imagine leaving her.
My husband has a background in catering and I started trying things as I kept some freelance jobs. From there I began writing books, appearing on cooking shows, doing live food demonstrations and now the JoyofKosher.com venture. I must say it was not my initial intention.
What is JoyofKosher.com?
Joyofkosher.com is a website where members can post, rate, search and share recipes, discover creative menu ideas, interact with other foodies and read interesting articles every day of the week. It's a website for everyone who loves celebrating food with family and friends.
The recipes in your books aren't necessarily traditional...
The first book was. I included brisket, chicken soup, and gefilte fish was the cover photo. I made sure I covered that, because I did want to explore other cuisines. Everything can be made in kosher. We can bake and cook every cuisine in the world.
So for Chanuka, the latkes won't only be potato?
Exactly. Potato latkes are great, but we have 8 days. Why not try something else? Samosa latkes for example.
What is more important in food: Look or taste?
Taste is more important, yet presentation is right up there. You can have the most amazing food, but if you serve it from disposable tins, you lost something. We eat with our eyes first.
What is your most horrifying moment in the kitchen?
When my husband first mentioned he liked vegetables in the soup, I put in whole vegetables, and when it came time to serve the whole carrots and celery, and everything else, it didn't even fit into the bowl.
What tip can you give mothers in the kitchen?
Cook with your kids. They'll have a sense of pride and since they are invested in the food, they will appreciate it more once you serve it.
But cooking with children can become a double task...
True. That's is why I emphasize in my books and in the Joy of Kosher magazine how long each recipe will take to prepare. We have the less than 15 minutes meal, the 20, 40 and 60.
Another tip is to delegate. If you have guests coming over, and you are stressed or are too close to a deadline, involve others. Don't try to be the whole team. In the beginning it will be hard, but it's worth taking the time to invest. Every professional chef has a sous chef. Find the 1 or 2 tasks that your husband or children can do well and ask only that from them.
Why does it say Chanalah on your apron?
That's my Yiddishe name.
Join Jamie and the world's largest kosher food community on JoyofKosher.com to discover 5,000 free recipes, menu ideas, how-to videos, and more. Follow her cooking adventures on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Jamie speaks at a Nshei Chabad event in Philadelphia