So what’s been cooking with Teaneck’s favorite teen chef?
Plenty. Since his appearance on the Food Network show, “Chopped,” which aired more than a year ago in September 2014, Eitan Bernath, an 8th grader at Yavneh Academy, has turned bar mitzvah, shot up four inches in height, and has gotten his braces off so now his sweet smile reflects his pearly whites.
Poised and mature, Eitan, who is busy with a full palette of day school responsibilities, has deepened his involvement in the kosher culinary world.
He’s spent the summer attending two professional cooking schools, took an online culinary course on the science of cooking offered by Harvard, grew an enviable garden of vegetables and herbs in his family’s backyard, blogged about cooking on his website, cookwithchefeitan.com, written columns of his own recipes for a local magazine, and sharpened his photography skills in order to add picture-taking of his dishes to his culinary oeuvre.
It sure is a full plate.
“At times I have to juggle school deadlines and professional deadlines,” says Eitan, who is scheduled to be a presenter at the upcoming 2015 Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival and a participant at the Kosher Bloggers Conference at NYU, among other upcoming engagements and appearances.
“But it is all a lot of fun and I would not want it any other way. Also, I have been able to meet many people in the kosher culinary world, and that has been amazing.”
We asked Eitan if he could create a few Thanksgiving recipes exclusively for About Our Children, and he happily obliged. He came up with two seasonal desserts that take advantage of fruits of autumn: pumpkin and cranberries.
Eitan’s Pumpkin Pie Parfait with a Pistachio Rosewater Crumble is a nod to the classic holiday pie, with a twist that is ethnic and innovative, and pays a bit of homage to his favorite cuisine: Indian.
Likewise, in his Thanksgiving Chocolate Chip Cookies, Eitan has added cranberries, which are traditionally used to make the sauce of the big Thanksgiving Day turkey. The cranberries give the cookies a chewy and fruity bite.
“He makes some mean cookies,” says his younger brother, Yoni, 10, a 5th grader at Yavneh Academy and among his biggest fans.
So what creates a teen chef?
Eitan began by watching his mother, Sabrina Bernath, cook. But when he was about 9 or 10, he started requesting more exotic food, and his mother encouraged him to try his hand at preparing his own food. He took her up on the offer, and the first dish he made, a basic burrito — “beans and cheese” — has morphed into a more complex dish, which remains a family favorite.
“He loves science and is very good at it,” says Sabrina Bernath. “He loves how cooking changes food, that scientific aspect, so cooking was a form of play for him.”
That play became a passion. And that passion, encouraged by his mother, and his father, Jason Bernath, is what Eitan has been following through.
He says for his greatest inspiration, he learns from YouTube, the Internet, and from the Food Network.
His fateful appearance on “Chopped” began when a friend, who knew about his cooking skills, sent an email about an open casting call at the Food Network. Eitan and his mother filled out the application, not thinking that anything would materialize, but hoping. Lo and behold, he was called for an interview. After a few rounds, he made the cut, and ap- peared on the show choosing to go on television with his kippah, a Jewish statement that has been widely praised.
Eitan’s statement of his Jewish pride on “Chopped” was even recognized by, among others, Chabad, which honored him with its Tzivos Hashem award celebrating the Power of Jewish Children at its annual dinner
Watching this young man cook is a pleasure. He demonstrated how to make the Pumpkin Pie Parfait with a Pistachio Rosewater Crumble for a reporter recently, preparing all the ingredients, and ever the professional, had one already in the oven baking. The kitchen was redolent with fragrance of the pumpkin pie spices.
“They have pumpkin spice mix, but it’s better to use one separately and mix them yourself,” Eitan advises. “This way you can control them more.”
Not only was it a pleasure meeting Eitan and his family, but also I got the pleasure of sampling the dessert.
Shall we say the proof was in the pudding — or in this case, the parfait.
Just like this young man —
Heidi Mae Bratt is the editor of About Our Children.