If ever you’ve been to a Bar Mitzvah, a wedding, a Federation community event of any size, you’ve seen their work. You’ve tasted the fruits (and pastries) of their labors, you’ve sampled their party trays, or you’ve sat down for heartier fare served in full-course meals. They’re young, they’re Jewish and they’re all about the simple joys of eating delicious food, good for the soul.
In this month’s issue of myJewishDetroit, we visit with six rising food entrepreneurs.
Chef Cari, Out and About Town
These days, Cari Herskovitz (married to Rabbi Israel Rosenbloom – of Gold ‘n’ Greens) can be found serving up Israel-style falafels and fries, hot and fresh, in a pop-up shop on the corner of Woodward and Cadillac Square downtown. For Chef Cari, street fare is just a summer fling, and only a part of the full-service catering business she runs from her location at Congregation B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Cookery Institute for Food and Healing in New York, she has mastered her culinary skills working for many years with some of New York’s finest foodies. Moving back to Detroit in 2003, she founded Chef Cari Kosher Catering, specializing in health-conscious cuisine with international flair, all certified Glatt Kosher under the Kashruth supervision of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit.
“It’s all about fresh,” says Cari. “Everything’s made from scratch. Nothing canned, nothing frozen.” On beyond falafels, Chef Cari has plans to expand from her catering business to a new restaurant at a location soon to be announced. Stay tuned.
Rabbi Israel Rosenbloom, Keeping Kosher at Gold ‘n’ Greens
A welcome kosher dining option on the Wayne State University campus, (in fact the only kosher restaurant downtown), Gold ‘n’ Greens has developed a city-wide following. With vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices on the menu every day, serving one-price, all-you-can-eat meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, what’s not to like about this unique dining experience?
What does it mean to keep a busy campus dining hall kosher? “My job is to make sure that every product that comes into the kitchen is certified kosher, that’s there’s no cross contamination in the production lines, no meat, shellfish or pork products of any kind,” says Rabbi Israel Rosenbloom. “Our fresh produce – any kind of leafy vegetable – has to be washed and checked by me. It can be a tedious process, but it yields a cleaner product.”
Gold ‘n’ Greens is not certified halal, but by default, many Muslim and Hindu students choose to come there for their meals. “You can walk in any day and see an Orthodox rabbi from Oak Park sitting across from a young student wearing a burka,” observes Israel. “This is something you probably won’t see anywhere else in the world.”
Max Surnow, Baking Cookies Just Like Mom’s
With a family recipe for a low-cal chocolate chip cookie with the crunch of a biscotti, Elaine Surnow didn’t know she had the basic ingredients for a wildly successful business. But, with the encouragement of family and friends to start selling and packaging those cookies, she launched Cooper Street Cookies with sons Sam and Max in 2011. Cooper Street Cookies are baked in the same way the original recipe calls for: hand-made with all-natural ingredients, no preservatives, no artificial flavors, zero transfat, lactose-free, nut-free, oh yes, and kosher. Everything, including package design and labels, is sourced in Michigan.
A partner in the success of the business, and crucial to the production, JVS brings the work crew into the bakery every weekday morning. The crew members are all clients of JVS’ Supported Employment Program, a service which supports people with special needs in securing employment. “When we first heard about the program two years ago, we thought we’d give it a try,” says Max. “Now the team from JVS comes in like clockwork every morning, and does everything from baking to packaging and labeling. We couldn’t ask for a better workforce.”
Packing a good crunch in the market today, and noting that chocolate cinnamon is still the family favorite, Cooper Street Cookies, now in nine flavors, can be found at Kroger, Busch’s Fresh Food Stores and Whole Foods.
Pam Turkin, Eric Goodman and Ryan Goodman, Baking Celebrations
Because people eat dessert with their eyes, Just Baked Cupcakes are baked to be beautiful.
Before launching her company, Pam Turkin, a VP of marketing for a merchandising firm and an avid home baker herself, traveled extensively and noticed how cupcake shops were starting to pop up coast to coast. In 2008, she decided to bring the concept home to Detroit. Since opening the doors of its first retail shop in 2009, Just Baked has grown to 19 outlets throughout Southeastern Michigan. With new partners in the business – brothers Eric and Ryan Goodman, the company is looking to expand across the state line with a first store in Ohio, in Beachwood, the heart of Jewish Cleveland.
From taste-tempting cake flavors to rich butter cream toppings, everything about a Just Baked product says, “Splurge, share and enjoy.” “It’s an interactive product, all about beautiful presentation,” Pam explains. “People will come in and buy four or six cupcakes, mix and match. It’s a very interactive product, designed to be set out on a plate for people to cut up, sample and compare. With more than 40 different delectable flavor offerings daily, there is sure to be a flavor for everyone.”
Favorites? Pam’s choice tends to Pumpkin Spice. Eric favors Oreo Chocolate.
Daniel Kohn, Satisfying Kravings for Kosher
Great burgers, sushi and gluten-free friendly. What more can you ask of a kosher dining experience? The newest enterprise in a third-generation family business, Kravings opened in Oak Park in January 2014. Daniel Kohn runs the restaurant in partnership with his mother, Leah, who owns the company that includes Quality Kosher Caterers. “My grandmother, Esther (Etta), a refugee from Hungary, started our catering business in 1968,” explains Daniel. “My dad, Paul (z’l), was a chemistry and biology teacher and started helping her with the business in 1978. It was my father who really took the company to where it is today. My father’s passion for great food was something we shared, and it will always influence our menu here.”
To broaden his experience in the food and hospitality industry, Daniel worked for the Ritz Carlton Company in Colorado, then New York. Since moving back to Detroit in 2011, he finds himself where he’s always meant to be – feeding Jewish Detroit, focusing on the quality and variety of good, simple food. And you can believe him when he says, “If I’m going to serve you a burger, it better be the best burger you’ll ever bite into.”