Don’t Tell Bubbe: Gentile is Kosher Queen

By Beth Schwartzapfel

Published February 09, 2007, issue of February 09, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A panel of experts convened in New York City last week to determine the country’s best kosher cook, and the results may come as a surprise: The winner was not Jewish.

Riding her delicious sweet potato encrusted chicken to victory, Candace McMenamin of Lexington, S.C., won the first-ever Simply Manischewitz Cook-off.

About 350 people packed into the Empire Room at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square to watch McMenamin beat out five other finalists — all women, four Jewish and one non-Jewish. In preparation for the showdown, a rabbi was brought in to kasher all the ovens and supervise the purchase of all the ingredients. A representative from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office was there with a proclamation making it official: February 1, 2007, was Simply Manischewitz Cook-off Day.

The finalists began chopping like mad when the cook-off started. With dishes as diverse as Middle Eastern falafel stuffed peppers, whitefish and potato knishes, and pea and fennel Soup, the only common denominator among the competing recipes was that they were all kosher, could all be prepared within one hour and all contained at least one Manischewitz product. The stakes were high: The winner was to take home a brand-new General Electric Co. kitchen, worth $20,000, plus $7,000 in cash and prizes, and a $3,000 savings bond from Manischewitz.

The panel of eight judges — which included Susie Fishbein, author of the Kosher by Design series of cookbooks; several professional chefs, including Ritz Carlton Chef Jacques Sorci, and Nachum Segal, host of 91.1 WFMU’s daily radio program, JM in the AM — wandered the room while the women cooked. “I’m looking for something fresh,” Fishbein said. “Kosher cooking isn’t just your bubbe’s brisket anymore.”

At the end of an hour, the chefs presented their dishes to the judges, who sat at a round table with their clipboards. They were judging for taste (50%), ease of preparation (20%), appearance (15%) and originality and creativity (15%).

McMenamin, who is something of a veteran cooking contestant — she was a two-time finalist in the Pillsbury bake-off — first saw an ad for the contest in Cooking Light magazine. Her friends were befuddled by the thought of a non-Jewish entrant in a kosher cooking competition. “How can you do that?” they asked.

But McMenamin was not deterred, and in the end she ran up against only one major obstacle: Her usual grocery store, the Piggly Wiggly, didn’t carry Manischewitz products, so to gather the ingredients from the company — sweet potato pancake mix, poultry seasoning, apricot preserves, white grape juice and extra virgin olive oil cooking spray — she had to go across town to the local Publix.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.