Private Chef Jordana Hirschel, who began her career as a Weight Watchers receptionist, now helps others reach their own health goals through her work as a teacher and owner of a catering business. As someone who also keeps kosher, she is a living example that you can observe Shabbat, celebrate Jewish holidays, and go on vacations, all while maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Tell us a little background about yourself:
I have been working as a private chef in my own business, The Blue Ladle NY, for approximately 10 years, and I am the current Chef Manager at the Manhattan Day School through Five Star Caterers. For 9 years, I worked at Weight Watchers as a receptionist (weighing in members), Location Coordinator (running the Lynbrook branch) and a Leader (facilitating meetings on Long Island and in Queens). My entire life, I struggled with my relationship with food as well as with my weight. I used food for all of the wrong reasons. I joined Weight Watchers as a member with my mother in law in 2004 and lost 75 pounds all while having 3 children, going to culinary school and beginning my career as a personal chef. In 2009, I began working for Weight Watchers to give back.
How does someone keep kosher and follow a healthy lifestyle?
I eat what I love in a healthy balanced way. The kosher, observant Jewish lifestyle can come with many weight related struggles. Whether we are at weddings, bar mitzvahs, kiddishes, celebrating Shabbat or observing the holidays, we celebrate often and with food. We can celebrate with better for us options while still feeling satisfied with what we eat; it’s all a matter of balance. Going to Weight Watchers meetings also helps me understand that there are ways to celebrate without (believe it or not) having all of the focus be on the food. We learn to focus on happiness, family, love, whatever may bring you joy.
How Can kosher-keepers eat healthy at restaurants?
It may be taking my family out for a celebration, having a lazy night, meeting friends or work related, but I go out to eat often. Eating out on a diet is stressful, but thankfully, a healthy lifestyle is not the same as a restrictive diet. It would be hard for me to find a place to eat that doesn’t have tasty, satisfying good-for-me options available. I treat myself as long as I am accountable for the foods I eat and don’t overdo it. Anyone who knows me knows that I love pizza and tacos. I still eat them on a weekly basis. I can eat ice cream with my kids, or go out for Chinese, sushi, fast food or to a steakhouse… I just won’t do all of that in the same day.
Tell us about the business of being a personal chef
I am the Chef Owner of The Blue Ladle NY LLC. I have been working with private customers making customized menus for their individual needs for 10 years. I have worked with busy families making weekly lunches and dinners. We customize meals for individuals with specific dietary restrictions. We cook for Shabbat, all holidays and parties. I also do cooking demonstrations. We can be found on Facebook, on Instagram and via email.
Tell us about your work at Manhattan Day School (MDS)
At MDS, I work to bring balanced meals that are kid friendly yet fresh and healthy. My staff and I make fresh meals daily including fresh soup, salad bar, fruit bar, bread bar, spreads plus fresh hot main and vegetable every day, in house. We also cater many school functions, all through Five Star Caterers. We are focused on health, and we are changing the way children eat lunch at school. This isn’t the same lunch we had when we were kids.
What brands are healthy and kosher friendly?
Honestly, I think avoiding brands all together is the way to go. What I mean by that is fresh is best. The fewer labels the better. Fresh produce, fresh fish, meat and poultry.
Any tips for Purim and Passover ideas to stay on track?
Stick with clean foods. On Purim, I traditionally serve “hidden” foods, or foods with alcohol or Persian dishes. There is no reason not to maintain your traditions while mixing in fresh clean additions to balance the plate.
Also it is always helpful to plan ahead. If I know I will be at a family member’s house with the best homemade hamentashen, I can plan for that. I will be more mindful not to pick at the mishloach manot candy filling my dining room table.
Passover has such a bad reputation for weight gain, it’s sad. Yes, the first two nights are difficult with all the matzah and wine, but after that we don’t need to gorge on chocolate, chips and macaroons. I try to eat on Pesach like I do the rest of the year and it’s super easy. Roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, salads (when done correctly they don’t need sugary dressings and chips to make them taste good). Again, the traditional foods are there (matzah ball soup, brisket, kugel etc), but not three meals a day every day. Snack on fresh fruit, small nut portions, take a walk instead of sitting around the table with all the Bartons. Enjoy the Spring, enjoy your family.
This story "Chef Dishes On How To Stay Fit — And Keep Kosher, Too" was written by Cindy Grosz.