Jamie Geller is an American-born Israeli food writer, celebrity chef, television producer and businesswoman. She is dominating the kosher market right now—the Miami Herald even called her “The Kosher Rachael Ray.” Jamie is one of the most sought-after Jewish food personalities worldwide. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of NYU, Jamie developed an outstanding media career as an award-winning TV producer and marketing executive at CNN, HBO and The Food Network.
She is the founder of the Kosher Media Network (KMN), a media company that is organized into five business segments: publishing, broadcasting, digital, live and e-commerce.
In 2010, KMN launched “Joy of Kosher” with Jamie Geller, which has become the #1 Trusted Kosher Content Brand. Additionally, she hosts online cooking shows on her website, www.joyofkosher.com, the first and number one social networking community for the kosher foodie where you can find recipes, menus and blogs!
Ever since her first cookbook, “Quick & Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing” (Feldheim, 2007) became a Jewish cookbook classic she has been at the helm of a rapidly growing media empire. Rising to international prominence, Jamie toured extensively, and became a favored media personality (ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, The New York Times, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, RachaelRay.com and more), projecting a positive and refreshing image of Jewish food and life worldwide.
What I found so fascinating about her is that she did not grow up cooking. She didn’t grow up eating kosher, either. Nearly a decade ago, she married into a very traditional Jewish family. Not only were they kosher, they were caterers and amazing cooks. They dubbed her “The Bride Who Knew Nothing,” which evolved into the title of her first cookbook.
I recently had the chance to speak to her while she was in Israel, what a treat!
My first and obvious question is why Kosher? I have to follow that with…do you ever crave bacon? I wasn’t always Kosher so of course every once in a while I will crave a slice of pepperoni pizza and crispy bacon. I became more interested in kosher food when I started to become religious. I was interested in studying my heritage, culture and religion. I became turned on to living a more observant lifestyle. I’d always identified Jewish, but I still didn’t know how to cook.
With your new religious lifestyle I’m sure you quickly figured out that keeping Kosher and cooking just comes with the territory. Food in general comes with the territory of being Jewish. Holidays, traditions, and Shabbat specifically have a lot to do with cooking. It’s not only about the food but entertaining, hosting… a lifestyle really! People tend to think of kosher food as a lot of rules and a lot of “no’s or not this,” in some of my contracts they had to make sure “everything was kosherized in the kitchen.” For me it’s not so much about the food or rules—it’s the idea of sitting down with your family and friends to a meal that is wholesome with a seal of approval. It evokes a sense of family and warmth, culture, tradition, and new memories. That’s what it means to me.
It’s very “hip” these days to have organic, farm to table, wild, hormone-free food. Keeping Kosher seems like it fits right in with the trend now. I like to think we started the trend! The idea of an extra set of eyes on our food, that it’s legitimate and coming from a trusted source- that’s important to me. Also the tradition of observing Shabbat is so timely right now because we are pulled in one hundred different directions every day and it’s important to stay centered. The Sabbath is the ultimate time to be with family.
Had you had any training on how to cook? I had on the job training. There was a lot of trial and error. When you are a spouse and a parent your family are the critics, I wanted to make food that my family liked. I wanted to de-mystify the idea that cooking is hard and that a busy, working mom can’t do it. My whole agenda is just to make people’s lives simpler and happier. That’s why it is called “Joy of Kosher.” Yes, the food happens to be kosher, and I happen to have a Jewish family, but I feel like we’re a lot more alike than different. It is almost like I shouldn’t have put kosher in the title, but it is how I cook.
I work overtime. I run a marketing company and we have the kids, the magazines, TV shows and books. I’m not just hanging out cooking all day. I need fast solutions. Food should be simple.
Before “Joy of Kosher,” you worked as a TV producer and marketing executive for HBO. Tell me a little bit how that influenced your work in the kitchen and your brand? I did the promotions for all the shows: Sex and the City, The Wire, and The Sopranos. As a producer I was in charge of managing several things each day—everything from budget content, kraft services, actors, writing and distribution. I had to wear many different hats. It’s very similar to cooking and preparing a meal. We are constantly juggling and trying to get the timing just right. Also my marketing skillset and background certainly contributed to building my brand.
When you are cooking for the holidays or Shabbat, what are some helpful tips you could give our readers? Entertaining is much more than just the recipe. You want to be available and around for your own party…and enjoy it yourself! Don’t stress out and wait until the last minute. Plan ahead and roll with the punches. If a meal isn’t necessarily hot after all the conversations and prayers, that is OK; try to make the best of it.
It’s 5:30PM in Israel right now, what did you make your family for dinner tonight? Chicken and pasta. The recipe is on my website—it’s chicken with a peach marinade, a little olive oil, garlic and Dijon with just a side of pasta. Quick and easy and the kids love it!
What’s next for you? We are getting very excited about the launch in August of our online courses that go into much more detail about preparing and cooking meals, even DIY (“do it yourself”- which is very popular right now) crafts such as hostess gifts for Rosh Hashanah. We give you the ideas and allow you the creative and personal licensing in the home and kitchen. We hope to inspire and give you the taking off points.
For entertaining tips, Jamie’s blog or to search more than 5,000 kosher recipes, please visit www.joyofkosher.com.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.