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 I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • 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.