Murray Kalis: Advertising, Food and Mexican No-Matzo Matzo Brei

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 57
May 23, 2024

Murray Kalis has lived the “Mad Men” life in real time. And while you may not know the name, chances are you’ve seen many of Kalis’ creative advertising endeavors.

Taster’s Choice Decaffeinated Coffee: “If you didn’t know the difference, you couldn’t taste the difference.”

Noah’s Bagels: “From NY to LOX,” rather than LAX.”

WisPride cheese spread: “The best thing to happen since sliced bread.”

Santa Monica resident Kalis, who was honored in May at Mishkon Tephilo’s annual gala, started his career in advertising in August 1970. He went from copywriter to VP/creative director with Leo Burnett in Chicago (Schlitz beer, Taster’s Choice). He then moved to Los Angeles as creative head for Young & Rubicam (he worked on brands, such as Kraft Foods, KFC, Wienerschnitzel and Nissin’s Cup o’ Noodles), before starting his own agency.

While Kalis has not solely worked on packaged goods (aka food), he has played a significant role building up names such as STAGG® Chili, Hormel Foods, Wetzel’s Pretzels and Starbucks Coffee. He is also helping the future generation with Murray Kalis Award for Creativity in Advertising at the College of Media of his alma mater the University of Illinois (BS 1861). Kalis endowed this award to emphasize to students the importance of creativity in advertising.

“The technology changes, people don’t change,” Kalis told the Journal. “They’re looking for that new taste, that new thing … or they’re looking for the memory of something wonderful, like mom’s special soup.”

Whether someone is seeking convenience, speed or something else, it’s the job of the advertiser to identify the consumer’s needs and wants and find a creative way to capture their attention.

“There’s gotta be a reason,” Kalis said. “If they’ve tried you, you want to give them a reason to try you again.

He added, “People need to eat, but they want something special.”

Today, Kalis is a strategic investor and consultant on advertising strategy and creative direction for fast-growing Dave’s Hot Chicken, including developing their current television campaign.

The thing that they discovered with Dave’s Hot Chicken is people would be so excited to try it, they would post their first taste on Instagram.

“So here I am, from the 1970s to the 2000s, and finding these Instagram posts [where] they are absolutely blown away,” Kalis said. “Sometimes their head goes back and they are really knocked out by it.”

Kalis uses Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” from 1962 to illustrate customers’ experience in the ad. “It must be love,” the song says.

The food memory that sticks out for Kalis is sitting in the kitchen while his grandmother made gribenes; he was three or four years old at the time.

“She did everything by hand; she would bring home a chicken and she would skin it,” he said. “She’d fry it, put some kosher salt on it and give it to me; it was just amazing.”

He added, “She would put the gribenes inside the matzo ball, so it was a surprise.”

Putting that secret ingredient (extra effort, love, enthusiasm) in matzo balls – and advertising – is what makes it extra special.

Kalis cooked a lot for his kids growing up, and he still likes to cook. His kids, now grown up and married, asked him for recipes.

One of his favorites is Mexican No-Matzo Matzo Brei.

“If you’ve been snacking on the taco chips, you get to the end of [the bag] and there’s all those little broken pieces and everything,” Kalis said. “Just like you do with matzo, pick up a handful, run them underwater, throw them in a bowl, break some eggs over them, stir it all up and scramble it.

“It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s a great breakfast surprise.”

Connect with Murray Kalis on Linkedin.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Mexican No-Matzo Matzo Brei

By Murray Kalis

2 hearty servings

 3-4 eggs



tortilla chips

2 tortillas



plain yogurt


Whip up the eggs, just like you always do for matzo brei. Then, instead of matzo, crunch up the leftover tortilla chips and toss in. Empty all the little pieces left in the bag. Whip that all together. Melt the butter in your frying pan, and go ahead and scramble, stirring to keep it chunky.

For each serving, put a warm tortilla on a plate. Scoop the scrambled eggs and chips on the tortilla, then put on a couple of slices of avocado, plenty of your favorite salsa –jarred is fine– and sprinkle around some cilantro. (If you use fresh cilantro, you can even dress up the plate like you would with parsley).

Top with a dollop of yogurt. For chutzpah, you can also shake on a couple drops of Tapatio hot sauce. Serve con gusto, and you and your guest(s) will be kvelling over how muy bueno it tastes.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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