Man-O-Manischewitz – what a cook-off!!!
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Man-O-Manischewitz – what a cook-off!!!

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Yitzi Taber prepares his garlic chicken rollatini for the judges.

The excitement was in the air on Thursday at the seventh annual Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off contest.

This year, for the first time, it was held at the Manischewitz Headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Newark. I am always excited about Manischewitz, because my mother, Ruth Perlman Janoff z’l, was a secretary to Beryl Manischewitz in the original Jersey City plant. That was where my parents met. And I’m also always excited about Newark, where my father, Jewish Standard founder Morris Janoff z’l, was born and raised.

This year’s event, the only national live kosher cooking competition, featured five contestants. They came from across the country – from as close as Bergenfield – that was Yitzi Taber – to San Francisco, home of the eventual winner, Josie Shapiro. Newark’s Mayor Cory A. Booker, who was there, proclaimed March 21 “Manischewitz Cook-Off Day.”

The contestants, selected from thousands of applicants, prepared their recipes live, in front of a panel of foodie judges and the audience. Recipes had to include one of the Manischewitz All-Natural broths; the line includes turkey, chicken, reduced sodium chicken, beef, and vegetable. Recipes also had to include one other Manischewitz product and use no more than nine ingredients. The grand prize included $25,000 worth of state-of-the-art Maytag appliances and cash.

Before the contest began, Manischewitz offered tours of its matzah plant – it happened to be this year’s last day of production for kosher for Passover matzah. Simultaneously, Jamie Geller, the celebrity chef and cookbook author who was the head judge, led a demonstration and tasting. A lunch buffet was prepared by Rave Caterers of Teaneck, owned by Noam Sokolow, using recipes from the five contest finalists. Manischewitz also showcased its new kosher for Passover products.

Contestant Yitzi Taber, 17, of Bergenfield, a senior at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, a.k.a. “Chef Y” who entered garlic chicken rollatini, “loves to cook.” According to the placard on his table, he heard about the Manischewitz Cook Off in The Jewish Standard. His favorite Manischewitz products are the turkey broth and falafel mix – he used both in his recipe – and he loves garlic and fresh lemons, which he feels “brings out the flavors in one’s palate.” Taber had a large contingent of TABC friends at the cook-off, along with his parents, Miriam and Mark, and his brother, Ephraim, 15, an MTA student.

Taber’s great aunt, Ruth Feder of Staten Island, remembers him as a very shy child and feels that cooking has brought out the best in him. Not surprisingly, his parents were thrilled for Yitzi, who cooks in their “very small kitchen” at home. He loves to create recipes, watches the Food Network, and is known to cook Shabbat dinner in their home, including making the challah. Taber, who finds cooking “relaxing” also makes a dynamite chocolate mousse pie. He hopes to attend the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts in Brooklyn, and will begin at Yeshiva University in the fall.

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