Meet our Students
Our student body is diverse in many ways.
We come from an array of religious affiliations, from Chasidish to Modern Orthodox to non-religious, but what we all have in common is that we are dedicated to learning classic culinary technique in a Glatt Kosher environment. We have diverse geographic origins, coming from as nearby as Coney Island Avenue and as far as Australia and South America. We are equally split between male and female, we are young and not so young, ranging in age from 15 to 60, and we are motivated as first careerists, second careerists and as enthusiastic home cooks.
Below, meet some of our talented and diverse alumni.
…Meet Avi Roth,
Second Careerist, Restaurant Owner
Some students come to CKCA as “second careerists,” and Avi Roth certainly fits that description. He initially trained as a developmental psychologist, and managed a development center for children with disabilities. After deciding to pursue his professional interest in the culinary arts, Avi worked with his then-partner to take a summer off, and became part of the first class of graduates of CKCA’s professional program in Culinary Arts in Summer 2008. He has since sold his stake in the development center and has been working steadily in the food business, holding a variety of positions. He is currently hard at work opening his first restaurant. Gotham Burger Co., a “kosher version of Shake Shack.” Gotham opened in April 2012 on Teaneck’s growing “restaurant row,” at the bustling corner of Queen Anne Road and West Englewood Avenue. Avi reports that his vision for Gotham Burger Co. includes a concentration on flavor profiles, a higher quality of meats ground in-house, at an affordable price with good service. “I want people to have a fine dining experience at a reasonable price,” he said. In addition, the roadside burger joint menu will have lots of kid-friendly fare. Avi looks forward to seeing lots of CKCA grads past and present become repeat customers.
…Meet Jasmine Einalhori,
NYU Grad, Facilities Manager, Future Kosher Restaurant Group Magnate
Jasmine Einalhori was a student at NYU, getting a degree in hospitality, when she considered going to a non-Kosher culinary school to round out her training. She knew she needed a culinary education if she was to achieve her goal of opening a restaurant group, but she also knew that keeping kosher might hold her back if she attended school in a non-Kosher environment. Jasmine heard about CKCA through the Next Great Kosher Chef contest run by CKCA in 2010. She entered the contest, became one of three finalists, and bested the other two finalists in a televised competition. Her win secured her a full scholarship in CKCA’s Winter 2011 Professional Program in Culinary Arts. Speaking about her experience as a student at CKCA, she related that she was always around food as a child and young adult, and always had a knack for cooking with spices and fresh herbs, but she didn’t have a classic professional skill set. “Before CKCA, I didn’t know what a bearnaise sauce was, or how to poach or blanch properly,” she said. After completing the certificate program as well as CKCA’s internship program with an eight-week stint at New York’s Solo Restaurant, “I had learned how to use those skills and get used to a commercial kitchen.” She worked the line at Solo. Jasmine is now working at NYU Chabad, managing operations for the building as well as the kitchen. “I have a general interest in management and was able to get in on the ground floor here. I helped work on the construction and building of this 8,000 square foot space, now in addition to knowing how to cater a dinner for 300, I learned to manage the security and site concerns for an entire building in Manhattan.” In terms of Jasmine’s future plans as a restaurant magnate: “I want to create a new Jewish ambiance for my generation of Jewish kids — the ones who keep Shabbos but eat dairy out because eating at a kosher place doesn’t have the cool or hip factor we are looking for. I want to create the kind of places where people would go because it’s a good restaurant that happens to be kosher. Generally it’s good food, good service, and it happens to be kosher.”
…Meet Esther Wilansky
Esther Wilansky, originally from Toronto, spent two years studying in Israel after graduating from high school, then came back to the States to complete the professional program in Culinary Arts at CKCA. She then worked in increasingly responsible positions, first interning at U-Cafe, then moving on to Ohel Bais Ezra, Catering by Michael Schick, and Moishe’s Cafe and Bakery. Her experience at CKCA was unparalleled, Esther says. “It gave me a base of knowledge and started me in the culinary world. I was taught all the necessary prerequisites needed to enter the workforce in a professional kitchen. After completing the course and the internship I was able to continue on in different directions and felt comfortable in multiple different job ventures.” While Esther is currently taking a year to work at a seminary in Israel, she is planning to continue in catering when she returns to the States. “I enjoy most working in the catering environment because it is so busy and fast paced and in the end you have created something beautiful. I enjoy it when I work very hard to make and/or create something ,whether it’s a dish, a platter or an entire party, and have it come out pleasing for the client. I love seeing people enjoy what I have given to them. It’s so gratifying to see your hard work appreciated.” Working in catering is not without challenges for Esther. “Being that I am a young single religious girl and most people that work in kitchens are men, usually from places that I find foreign, it can be challenging, but overall when you have a good attitude and work hard, people are apt to follow.”
…Meet Jessica Levenson,
Barnard Student, Future Kosher Food Evangelist
Jessica Levenson, a student at Barnard College in Manhattan, is a graduate of the Professional Program in Culinary Arts. She took the course as part of her summer break from classes, and wherever she has worked, she is always involved with food. “I have worked as a waitress and a bartender, and while I might like to work as a chef at some point along the line, I plan to study restaurant management at a program in Israel after college.” Jessica is currently working as an intern at Joy of Kosher Magazine, assisting in web development and writing a column. Originally from West Orange, NJ, Jessica loves food because she feels it is a uniquely social experience and one of the great things in life that brings people together. “When you taste something good, your instinct is to share it with others,” she said. “While everyone may taste something different on their tastebuds, people instinctively come together when they have a good experience.” In addition to enjoying her time at CKCA for Pro Culinary, Jessica also took part in a master class series on bread making, which she found to be helpful to round out her baking skills. Professionally, Jessica sees the greatest challenge of working at restaurants after being classically trained, is that people have to be convinced to order more complicated or interesting food. “When people go out, they most often order what is familiar by default, but then they miss out on the talent of the chefs, who often prepare exciting specials on their menu. Jessica hopes to work in an environment where she can encourage customers to be more adventurous about food, to enable people to enjoy unexpected tastes and new flavors.
…Meet Jordana Hirschel,
Mom & Personal Chef
Jordana Hirschel works as a personal chef in Cedarhurst, NY, with a client base in Manhattan and Long Island. “A lot of people think that to work in the culinary world you have to be in a restaurant, but I wanted to either work in my home cooking for others, or work as a personal chef in other people’s homes. Before joining CKCA’s first graduating class of the Professional Program in Culinary Arts, “I was an avid home cook who sold food from home to friends and family. I knew it was time to professionalize and I looked into a lot of different programs, including a culinary school in Jerusalem. The day the CKCA professional program was announced, I called and signed up.” Jordana got internship experience at an Ohel Bais Ezra home for the developmentally disabled, and then landed some clients for her personal chef business. She now is the personal chef for one family and has several additional regular clients. “I deliver twice a week to homes and cook for special events in people’s homes,” she said. Jordana is most happy that she gets to cook every day, which for her is a labor of love. “I always thought I would have to work behind a desk and people always ask me why I don’t go into catering or open a restaurant, but I really like to work closely with the food. I like to be the cook, not a manager or personnel director. As a personal chef, I get to be the cook.”