12-year-old Eitan Bernath appeared on “Chopped,” performing a cooking demo at a kosher market in Bergen County Monday night.
Eitan chopped mushrooms and sautéed onions with all the panache of a veteran chef as the crowd leaned forward in their seats, mouths watering.
“I love food,” Eitan smiled, his braces gleaming in the light. “I love eating food. I love talking about food. I love blogging and tweeting about food.” He turned over a slice of skirt steak that was sizzling in a pan and advised using peanut oil. “It brings out the flavor of the meat,” he said.
The audience of over 125 people included the well-heeled housewives of Bergen County and their progeny, who oohed and ahed over every sizzle of Eitan’s fry pan. Even those usually hard at work behind the bakery and takeout counters of the upscale kosher supermarket were transfixed.
“I’m sitting here with mouth wide open,” said audience member Marsha Motzen, adding that Eitan’s charismatic presentation beat any cooking show on TV. Her enthusiasm grew when samples of Eitan’s skirt-steak-black-bean burrito were distributed to the crowd.
In fact, Eitan had already brought his charismatic presentation to a cooking show: the Food Network’s “Chopped,” in an episode cheekily titled “Short-Order Cooks,” which aired last night.
“Chopped” is a cooking competition in which contestants turn mystery ingredients into restaurant-quality dishes within a tight timeframe. Contestants get “chopped” off the show after each of three courses is critiqued by a panel of celebrity chef judges.
Before filming the show last April, Eitan consulted a rabbi about whether he would be permitted to cook with non-kosher ingredients. The rabbi said he was allowed to cook non-kosher meat, but that he would have to keep it separate from dairy ingredients.
Eitan showed pride in his faith on the show. While the other contestants highlighted extracurricular activities in their filmed bios, Eitan, clad in a bright blue kippah, talked about how much he loves celebrating Purim, saying that he had dressed up as another Food Network star, Guy Fieri, last year.
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