A Jewish Cooking Primer

Illustration from “Mark Stark’s Amazing JewishCookbook”

A Jewish Cooking Primer

By Tamara Liebman, Contributing Writer

Los Angelesbaker Mark Stark has taken the Greatest Hits of American JewishCookery and put them into a format that’s so kid friendly, readersmight be tempted to color in the pictures.

From its lively full-color cover to its hand-drawnillustrations of cooking ingredients, “Mark Stark’s Amazing JewishCookbook” (Alef Design Group, $19.95) could easily become the primerfor first-time Jewish cooks. Starting with basics, such as kitchensafety, and including a glossary of terms (i.e. “stir: to move aroundand around with a spoon…”), this paperback focuses on manystandards of the Ashkenazi kitchen. Recipes include challah, bagels,chicken soup, brisket, potato latkes and mandelbread, with falafel,hummus and tahina thrown in as the newest American Jewishstandards.

Stark, a 31-year-old fourth-generation Angeleno,is the author and illustrator of this little volume. Although he wasborn and raised in Southern California, he first got his mittsgreased in the Bay Area. After graduating from San Francisco’sCalifornia Culinary Academy, the young baker opened Stark’s AmazingBakery, specializing in gourmet Jewish baked goods. Having one of theonly Jewish bakeries in San Francisco, he soon began supplying localmarkets.

Stark eventually sold the bakery and moved to LosAngeles to open the baked goods division of Barney Greengrass inBeverly Hills. “It was probably the best job I ever had,” Stark said.”I hired a 61-year-old baker away from Junior’s Deli as my assistant.I learned a lot from him. He was a great inspiration to me.”

After training Barney’s bakers, Stark went back toschool. This time to teach. He taught at Southern California CulinaryInstitute in South Pasadena, and he’s currently teaching at EpicureanSchool of Culinary Arts Los Angeles. Between classes, Stark works asa consultant for various bakeries. And he loves writingcookbooks.

Stark said he wrote this book to simplify thecooking process. “Most of the time, people usually are not ascreative when reading out of a regular cookbook,” said Stark. “Byfollowing my book, it’s more visual and interactive. Most cookbookson the market tend to call for different types of equipment that youmay not have. My book uses equipment that you usually already have. Ialways believe that less is more.”

For someone who believes less is more, thisdoesn’t apparently apply to preparation. The cookbook took two yearsto write and a month to illustrate. “I did the drawings in 30 days.But that was 24 hours, seven days a week. I didn’t sleep.”

The book is organized around the Jewish calendar,starting with a Shabbat meal. Each chapter begins with a briefdescription of the holiday and touches on customs, followed by apossible holiday meal.

One note of caution: Although Stark offers adescription of kashrut and clearly marks recipes as meat, dairy orparve, he groups both meat and dairy dishes together within oneholiday meal. Kosher cooks need to replace certain recipes with theirparve versions, such as nixing the flank steak from split pea soupwhen serving cheese-filled phyllo triangles on Simchat Torah. Whenasked about this, Stark said he wanted the book to appeal to thebroadest range of readers. He did, however, have a rabbi review therecipes to make sure they were kosher.

Asked about his own kitchen memories, Stark turnedhis thoughts to Mom.

“I think working with my mother ultimatelyinspired me to continue on with the profession,” he said. “I’d liketo pass it down. I’ve written this book for future chefs. If I couldchange one person’s mind to become a chef, I think that’sgreat.”

Mark Stark’s Amazing Jewish Cookbook isavailable at all Barnes & Noble, Brentano’s and Waldenbooks. Oryou can order it direct through Alef Design Group: 1-800-845-0662;e-mail, misrad@alefdesign.com; or visit their web site atwww.alefdesign.com.