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Jerusalem Report: Glatt Gone Gourmet by Daniella Cheslow

Jerusalem Report: Glatt Gone Gourmet by Daniella Cheslow

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Published by Daniella Cheslow
Pastry Chef Miri Zorger is driving a culinary renaissance in Israel's ultra-Orthodox community. By Daniella Cheslow. Published 11 April 2011 in The Jerusalem Report
Pastry Chef Miri Zorger is driving a culinary renaissance in Israel's ultra-Orthodox community. By Daniella Cheslow. Published 11 April 2011 in The Jerusalem Report

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Published by: Daniella Cheslow on Oct 27, 2011
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 APRIL 11, 201117
Glatt Gone Gourmet
Daniella Cheslow
Tiny truffles,big dreams: a revolution is brewing in the ultra-Orthodox kitchen
ALKING ALONG THE MAIN ROAD OF THEultra-Orthodox moshav of Beit Chelkiya where theonly pedestrians are black-hatted men chattering inYiddish, it is difficult to imagine this as a seat of aculinary revolution. But at the edge of town is MiriZorger’s two-story home, fitted with an oversized freezer and a pantryoverflowing with bars of chocolate, gold flecks and the tiny white namecards that poke out of each of her signature chocolate truffles.At 43, Zorger has emerged as a coveted caterer and a celebrity evan-gelist for a new ethos of kosher cooking that refuses to see tradition asa restriction in the kitchen. In a cookbook and weekly radio show,Zorger urges her followers to use fresh herbs and bake French breads.And Zorger’s rising star reflects a culinary awakening reaching fullbloom that has ultra-Orthodox Israelis enrolling in pastry schools, snap-ping up premium kosher French chocolate, and poring through pages of glossy new cookbooks devoted to improving kosher cuisine. Israelibusinesses are happy to accommodate them, offering the better productsand services necessary for glatt (strictly kosher) gone gourmet.On a Sunday evening in Bnei Brak, Zorger bustles around a flood-lit stage while mixing dough for a focaccia, a fluffy flat bread reminis-cent of pizza crust. Her brown hair (a wig) falls just above her shoul-ders. Every now and then Zorger shakes her thick straight bangs fromin front of her eyes. Her black skirt reaches her calves, her black but-toned shirt falls just as loosely. Without the stage makeup and clip-onmicrophone, Zorger would look like the thousands of women who havecrowded the event hall, all wearing long skirts and wigs or hats.
MIRI ZORGER:Coveted caterer
 APRIL 11, 201118
“Write quickly!” she shouts, her hands deep in a glass bowl of dough. “Akilogram of flour, 3/4 cups of oil, ten grams of yeast, a half liter of water and salt and pepper!”Zorger is on stage as the culinary advisor to “Balabusta” (a Yiddishterm for housewife), a 13-hour marathon of gourmet kosher cookingthat includes sales of appliances, knives, cookbooks and pastry ingredi-ents. But the centerpiece of “Balabusta” is the ongoing cooking demon-strations by Zorger along with a challa baker, a wine specialist and anAmerican celebrity kosher chef, Jamie Geller. The evening’s crowningevent is a food cookoff, shown live on giant overhead screens. For thenearly 10,000 women who attend the festival throughout the day,watching cooking shows on a screen is a novelty because they do notown televisions.In the front row, Yael Nahari and Batsheva Cohen furiously scribbleZorger’s list of ingredients. They rode for more than two hours fromTiberias to land front-row seats.“We can’t leave our chairs,” says Cohen, 40, who works in a kinder-garten. She points to a thick, blue cutting board and new chef’s knifepeeking out of a plastic bag at her feet. “You can’t get these in Tiberias.”
ORGER BEGAN HER COOKING CAREER LATE. SHEgrew up in Bnei Brak and wed an arranged husband, Yehezkel,at age 18. They had four children. Zorger grew up observant butalways had an eye for design. After her children were born, she beganstudying fashion at Tel Aviv’s Shenkar School of Design. Anear-fatalcar accident pushed her to reconsider her plans and enroll in cookingschool at age 36.Zorger took a year-long chef’s course at the Bishulim school in TelAviv, followed by another year of pastry. It is the only non-kosher cook-ing school in Israel, but she wanted to study at the highest level possi-ble. For the two years, Zorger did not taste a thing. Every day she wouldrush home after class and recreate the dishes in her kitchen, switchingout
(non-kosher) ingredients like pork, shrimp and gelatin andusing kosher substitutes like other meats or agar agar, a messy kosheralternative to pork-based gelatin.“It was not simple at all,” she says.Afterward, Zorger apprenticed with the Israel-based German pastrychef Hans Bertele, and took more lessons with a French pastry chef inEilat. As her confidence grew, Zorger baked desserts for friends andneighbors. Gradually, she began getting requests for catering. Her firstevent was catering a sushi dinner for a contractor in Israel. Soon after,a Swiss hotel hired her to bake kosher cakes for Passover. Outside thekitchen, Zorger wrote recipes for the Tnuva dairy company, and herreach grew further nearly four years ago when she became the host of aweekly cooking program on Kol Hai, the leading Orthodox-friendlyradio station. She developed a loyal following. Zorger introduced herbsby name and instituted an annual recipe competition called “HashefitHaba’a” – the next [female] chef.Today, Zorger caters about four events a month. She moved fromBnei Brak to Beit Chelkiya in the southern coastal plain six months agofor the bigger kitchen and for some quiet away from the bustle of herpublic cooking life.“Gourmet comes from kosher because it is meticulous food,” shesays. “Who is as meticulous as
when it comes to things likeremoving insects, or making sure everything is clean?”That attention to detail translates into precisely formed miniaturechocolates, which Zorger dusts with gold powder, or dressing she servesin test tubes inside delicate, tiny salad bowls.“I like everything in cups with small forks,” Zorger says. “It’s impor-tant that the table should be clean, that the buffet not look like a warzone, and that the food be good.”Zorger’s growing name was enough to convince
publisherMalchut Waxberger to invest in its first cookbook, “Simply Gourmet,”released in 2010 in Hebrew. Co-owner Yoel Waxberger says the book was timed for Rosh Hashana; more than 7,000 of the first 10,000 copieshave sold. Waxberger says Zorger’s exacting style grabbed him fromtheir first meeting, when she brought a tray of cakes.“She put them on the table and no one touched them, they lookedlike plastic,” he says. “Little desserts, pralines with chocolate and a bitof pomegranates and pistachio. We thought it was just decoration untilshe told us to eat it.”The kosher kitchen is the ideal place for a revolution, Waxbergersays.“There are no problems with the rabbis. Everything is kosher, andthe photographs are of food,” he says.
,but he worked in Jerusalem’s Sheraton Plaza hotel, now calledLeonardo, which keeps the strictest kosher certificate. He sayskosher hotels fueled demand for specialty products, including balsamicvinegar. Now observant cooks can buy organic flour or specially groundflours for pasta, bread and cake.“The amount of products and variety of raw ingredients is justastounding,” he says. “Today, the kosher kitchen is absolutely not arestriction. Ten or 15 years ago, there was a shortage in good qualityingredients with the right kosher seal.”Those new ingredients feature in a growing body of new recipes. Tenyears ago, the
daily “Mishpacha” [Family] newspaper beganrunning a small food section in its weekend edition. Marketing VicePresident Tzipi Amitai says that after readers raved about the section inthe newspaper’s audience polls, “Mishpacha” launched a food maga-zine called “Teimot” [Tastes] two years ago. Now the magazine deliv-ers 8,000 copies to its regular newspaper subscribers, along with anoth-er 4,000-7,000 customers who buy it separately.Amitai says three ultra-Orthodox chefs run the magazine. February’sedition focused on fresh fruit in time for the Tu Bishvat holiday; thecover featured a luscious tart with sliced kiwi. Other issues have cov-ered wine pairings and how to make hearty bean soups.“As the world advances,
women are developing careers,”Amitai says. “But for a
woman, one of the main measures of awoman, how good a housewife and mother she is, is her cooking.”
‘Women in the sector really investin decorating their meals,if it’s for the holidays,or a Friday night,or even just for the kids’
– marketing director Rachel Adler 

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