Q&A: Heshy Fried of Frum Satire Talks Food
Active members of the Jewish blogosphere know Heshy Fried as the author of Frum Satire, a widely read humorous ranting blog about what he views as hypocrisy and judgementalism in the Orthodox community.
Fried, 29, said he launched the blog in 2006 to write about “things that I found disgusting and funny at the same time.” He further explained, “I was taking stereotypes and blowing them out of proportion and really exaggerating and being incredibly sarcastic and cynical and satirical all at the same time, to try and bring forth some sort of change… I don’t know if I was thinking so altruistically at the time. I thought maybe I could just get some chicks from it.”
The blogger apparently doesn’t hide much from his readers, but he has been circumspect about his newfound profession in the culinary arts. In the last year, Fried has moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area and has been working as a mashgiach and cook at The Kitchen Table, the only kosher fine dining establishment in Northern California. He has decided that it is time to let his readers peak through the kitchen door, and he has chosen to share with the Jew and the Carrot the recipe to his newfound happiness and success as a cook.
Renee Ghert-Zand: You’re usually associated with the Orthodox community but you recently moved to the Bay Area, a region with relatively few Orthodox Jews. What is it like to live so far away from the fodder for your posts?
Heshy Fried: I moved to the Bay Area almost a year ago, in late December of ‘09. I lost my job in New York, and a fan of mine from the West said, “Hey, you’ve always wanted to live out here, why don’t you come out. There are some mashgiach positions available, they’ll put you up in Berkeley and you’ll see how you like it.” I have a tech background, so I thought I’d come out and look for work in Silicon Valley and meet people. That was the original plan.
So, how did you end up working as a cook at The Kitchen Table?
I got work as a mashgiach t’midi [kosher supervisor], where you’re doing cooking anyway. You’re a working mashgiach, so you’re not just sitting on your ass or washing vegetables all day. You’re like a prep cook. Which is like the bottom of the barrel in the kitchen, but you’re like a glorified prep cook. Then a few months ago they asked if I wanted to be a line cook, and I said, “Dude, this sounds good.”
Did you train to be a mashgiach?
There’s really no training when it comes to this. I have questions every day, and when I have questions I call up the Va’ad… Every guy who went to yeshiva did some hashgachah [kosher supervising] work at some point.
Why is cooking now interesting you, and where do you think this might be going?
I’ve always been interested in food – eating, that is. The preparation of food has always interested me, but I was never able to do it well. Then I went out with a woman who worked as a professional chef and I saw that you don’t need to take a whole day to cook a meal.
Up until now, I have never really enjoyed a job… it was never something I could see myself doing in five years. With cooking, this is the first time I can do that. I enjoy working so much that I volunteer to work on my off days. …
The dismal quality of kosher food and the high cost has been a pet peeve of mine. One of the fundamentals of forming a vibrant Jewish community is the food and having kosher food available that is accessible to everyone is really important. No doubt, I see myself in the industry. I don’t know – either as chef, sous chef or a restaurant owner – something fast paced.
Have you found that living in the Bay Area has increased your interest in food and cooking?
Northern California is like food culture. So people call you up on Erev Shabbos and say, “We’re having pasta with red sauce. That’s the wine you should bring.” So even prior to cooking, I was getting into wine and coffee and certain local produce and all the amazing farmers’ markets they have around here. It’s just one more way to express yourself.
I’m really into the local stuff here, the seasons, too. That is not important in New York. Especially in the Orthodox community in general, there are no seasons. In our restaurant people will ask for strawberries and we tell them they’re not in season, they can have yams. There’s definitely a disconnect in the Jewish community. There’s also a disconnect in the frum community about really good healthy food that’s made fresh.
Is food funny?
Food is funny. Standing in a restaurant and watching the reaction of people is funny in itself. The complaints are funny. They’ll eat the entire steak and then say it was overdone. They’ll leave over a t iny piece of a $40 steak and then complain… such weirdness.
Have you written about food?
I’ve written about food… I’ve painted myself as this guy: “I’m at Kiddush and damn everyone else, I’m going to get to the cholent. I’m going to mow people down to get it. Me and the old ladies are fighting over the cholent.” I wrote about food from a very immature perspective, not from a food perspective.
Every single place I’ve lived in I’ve written a restaurant review… In New York, I’ve done dozens.
Why has it taken so long for you to share your new cooking career with your readers?
I never appreciated the art of making food and the ingredients that are put into it. I want to write more about it, but unfortunately because I am a mashgiach and not everything I write about is agreeable… Some people might have questions about whether I can be a mashgiach and write skeptical things against the community. That might be an issue, but I believe that skepticism leads to strength, but most people don’t see the same thing.
I write about living in Northern California, but I haven’t written about what I am doing here. I’ve been throwing out hints here and there, but I figure this will come out and people will know. It has to come out eventually.