The Jew And The Carrot

Q & A: Chef Amanda Cohen Dishes on "Iron Chef" and Jewish Food

By Eric Schulmiller

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Jew and the Carrot recently caught up with Amanda Cohen, the visionary chef-owner of Dirt Candy – one New York’s most acclaimed vegetarian restaurants – who took on Chef Morimoto last month in a broccoli challenge on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”

Cohen, who put up a good fight but was ultimately defeated by Morimoto, built her repetoir at Moby’s vegetarian teahouse Teany and at Dinerbar. Two years ago she opened Dirt Candy in the downtown Manhattan, which was named top vegetarian restaurant and called “the future of Vegetarian restaurants” by the Village Voice.

This week Cohen chats with us about competing on “Iron Chef,” the celebrity chef phenomenon and her Jewish food memories. Next week, in our second installment, we’ll wrap up with Cohen on making haute vegetarian cuisine at Dirt Kitchen, rebelling through vegetarianism and adding humor to her kitchen.

Here’s a sneak peak at Cohen on “Iron Chef America”:

Eric Schulmiller: You recently competed on Iron Chef against Morimoto. At one point, you worked for Bobby Flay (another Iron Chef) at Mesa Grill, did you want to compete against him?

Amanda Cohen: I was actually an intern in the pastry kitchen for about four months. I would have loved to pick him! You’re sort of guided into who you should pick, but yeah, that would have been awesome – the intern going up against the Iron Chef.

ES: How do you feel about the whole celebrity chef phenomenon, which was basically started by “Iron Chef” in Japan, and the Food Network here in the U.S.?

AC: It’s crazy. I can’t say I don’t appreciate it… but it is bizarre – it’s not something I ever expected or thought this was where the cooking world was going to go to when I was in cooking school about 15 years ago. Celebrity chefs didn’t exist then. I think, as amazing as it is, you start to get caught up in that world and you forget that what is important is your restaurant and being a chef and you start to get really far away from what your original goals were.

ES: Did you have any memorable Jewish food experiences in your formative years?

AC: Yeah, I had lots. When I was five, I was on the front page of the newspaper for eating hamentaschen. You could see the smile on my face while I’m eating it. I’m, like, sitting on the table with my winter boots and snowsuit on, stuffing them into my face. Food was really important to my family, and that’s what the Jewish holidays were about. I have a big family, and so every holiday we would all get together and that would be close to thirty or forty people… always around the dinner table.

ES: I had read that you were in the process of obtaining kosher certification for Dirt Candy? Has there been any progress on that front?

AC: Being Jewish and trying to get kosher certification is actually a lot harder than not being Jewish. Every rabbi that I talk to will not let me work on Friday nights. And I’d have to “sell” the restaurant every Friday night. I don’t mind doing that, as long as the restaurant could stay open, but I can’t not work at this point.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Village Voice, Iron Chef, Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.