Eitan Bernath took a lemon and made lemonade.
That is a cliché, but also a truism about the last year in the life of this food professional, a description that is just a slice of who this young man from Teaneck has become.
It is also a story of how the dream of a tween, who by dint of his hard work, and with the magic of social media, luck, supportive parents, his captivating personality and charisma, and yes, the Covid-19 pandemic, became a global social media luminary, entertainer, food personality, and entrepreneur.
He is only 19.
We can say that we knew him way back when. The Jewish Standard featured Eitan Bernath on the cover of About Our Children, its family magazine, in November 2015. In that issue, Eitan created Thanksgiving recipes for our readers in the kitchen of his Teaneck home.
These days, Eitan is wearing many other hats. He a food and lifestyle content creator, entertainer, entrepreneur, television personality, activist, and philanthropist. Garnering some 3 billion views annually from over 300 million consumers in more than 150 countries, Eitan has evolved from viral stardom to mainstream ubiquity. Since his love affair with food began at the age of 7, he has amassed more than 5 million followers across his social media empire, with hundreds of millions more consumers through television, radio, print, live events, merchandising, and brand partnerships.
Since 2020, Eitan has been the principal culinary contributor for “The Drew Barrymore Show” on CBS, making him the first notable TikTok star to expand into a recurring role on daytime television. A pioneer in digital media and content development, he’s also the chief executive officer of Eitan Productions, the eponymous entertainment studio responsible for producing original content for his media ventures and brand partners.
Eitan has guest starred on NBC’s “A Little Late with Lily Singh” and was a headlining speaker for Facebook at the Instagram Next conference in October 2019, where he presented alongside Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, and Mark Zuckerberg. Additionally, he has been featured in several major media outlets.
It’s quite a resume, and his rise, like cream to the top, is not surprising.
His first step began when he appeared on the first kid’s episode of “Chopped” on the Food Network when he was 11 years old. In 2017, Eitan made his second Food Network appearance on Guy Fieri’s show, “Guy’s Grocery Games,” which jump-started his career in entertainment. With his signature candor and entertaining delivery, his work ethic drove him to success as a content creator, which through digital and traditional media platforms elevated him into international stardom.
But in speaking to Eitan these days, he’s still Eitan. Grateful, charitable, charming, hard-working, and driven.
Eitan’s lemon (way worse than a lemon) came at the beginning of 2020 when Covid hit. He lost his beloved grandfather, Lawrence Bernath, who passed away in late March.
“I fell into a really deep depression. I felt totally broken. He (my grandfather) had always been my biggest fan,” Eitan recalled. “Every time I called, he would pick up the phone and say, ‘Is this the famous chef, Eitan Bernath?’ I knew that he would not want me to stop doing the thing that made him so proud.”
So even though he didn’t feel like smiling, Eitan forced himself back on social media (his followers knew what had befallen the Bernath family). He plastered a smile and did what he did, ploughing through. He did this for his late grandfather.
“It was hard. But I did this knowing that it made him proud. Even though he wasn’t here anymore, I was still able to live on with the legacy that made him so proud. It also helped get me through.”
The year ironically went from the worst to the best.
“What I am most proud of is what started off as such a horrible year, turned out to be a weird dichotomy of the worst year of my life and the best year of my life. Because so many people around the pandemic got interested in food and cooking because they couldn’t go out to eat, the food industry was really booming” and so was his social media presence.
In May 2020, Eitan signed with William Morris Endeavor and is currently represented by their digital talent division along with a consortium of agencies including UNCMMN, ID, The Harry Walker Agency, and Brecheen Feldman Breimer Silver & Thompson.
“I would say that it almost felt that when my grandfather passed, things started exploding. It kind of felt that it was meant to be, and that he wanted me to keep going even if he couldn’t be there physically. Just knowing, that I could make him proud. I think I took that year and basically completely flipped it upside down. He would be so proud to see everything and how happy I am personally.
“When you interviewed me a long time ago, I would have described myself as a chef. Now I see myself as an entertainer and an educator, and a food and lifestyle content creator. For me, the core of what I do is entertainment. I realized through videotapes that I love entertaining people.
“I also describe myself as an entrepreneur and basically that’s what it is to build a company. It takes a lot more than one person to run such a big operation. It’s been a really cool opportunity to learn how to delegate because for me, my whole life, I’ve been working since I’m 12, and it’s been just me, so it was out of my comfort zone to bring on a team of people.
“This was always part of my plan. It happened way faster than I anticipated and I’m very grateful. My plan and goal were to build and grow an empire entertainment industry. But to be frank, it’s happened way faster than I anticipated, and I’m really grateful for that.”
But he is mindful to keep himself grounded and steeped in the values that he learned from his family and his education at Yavneh Academy and Yeshivat Frisch.
“I have definitely taken so many of the values that have helped me get here and stay level-headed. I definitely can see how young people who get some level of fame can go crazy and become super arrogant. From the first paycheck I made, the $100 or $200 from a cooking demonstration when I was 12, I donated a percentage to charity. I keep that in the forefront, and I remember how important that value is. At the end of the day, the money that I make is not just for me.”
Eitan sometimes makes public his donations to several causes, or matches donations, letting followers know and hopefully follow suit. “I do some on social media, but a lot (of his philanthropy) is done in private. It helps keep you humble.
“My biggest fear is the fame getting to my head. I am just a normal person with a job that I love that is not a normal job.”
It is his friends, his team, and his brother Yoni, who help Eitan keep his feet on the ground.
“My brother Yoni always lets me know how impressed or not impressed he is in a jokingly loving brotherly way, and I think my parents and grandmas” also help keep it real.
“I’m busy, but I try to keep family a big priority.
“Luckily, my parents, (Sabrina and Jason Bernath of Teaneck) have been cheering me on since day one. Having their support has always meant the world me. I think it’s been really exciting to show my parents how much I appreciate that. I think for them also, it’s been gratifying for them to see that this dream realized, this dream that little Eitan told them he wanted when he was 12, even though they may have thought it crazy at the time. Nevertheless, they believed in me and helped me and supported me as it came to fruition. It’s really exciting to share the joy of what’s happened with them.”
And his plans for the new year?
Eitan will be home, enjoying Rosh Hashana with his parents, brother, and grandmothers. He will catch up with his old and good friends while in the neighborhood (he now lives in Manhattan).
As for cooking?
He will get some time in the kitchen to whip up some holiday fare – but his mother will do most of the cooking.
But he adds, “on the food side,” he definitely will be indulging in a favorite treat for the holiday – challah and honey.
“Honey on challah is one of my favorite foods on the planet.”
Now, that is a great way to start a sweet year.