Chef Rossi: “The Punk Rock Queen of the Jews,” Putting Love into Food and Gluten-Free Mac N Cheese

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 61
June 19, 2024
Photo by Melissa Donovan

Chef Rossi is known as the anti-caterer! The founder of The Raging Skillet (which happens to be the name of her first memoir), Rossi is all about making fun, surprising foods that people love and putting love into everything she makes. This shines through in her writing, as well.

Whereas “The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi” shares the behind the scenes of how she became a chef and caterer (complete with kooky recipes), her latest, “The Punk Rock Queen of the Jews” is kind of a prequel. It’s her wild, queer coming-of-age true story.

“I never quite wrote anything like that where I made myself so vulnerable,” Rossi told the Journal. “I was a wild punk rocker and my parents wanted me to be a nice Jewish girl with 1950s values and it wasn’t working out.”

Rossi ran away from home, and had a giant party, because that’s “what you do when you run away from a repressive home. “The police busted my party and my parents got the bright idea to ship me off to a Chasidic rabbi in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1981, who specialized in taking in and turning around wayward Jewish girls.” Rossi had to stay with them for two years.

She added, “You can see that worked really well.”

Rossi hopes the book serves as an inspiration for those living in a repressive society, religion or family.

“If I could give [courage] to one teenager who is depressed and sad and scared and thinks they might be gay, that would just make everything worthwhile,” Rossi said. “I wish so much that I had been able to read something like that when I was 16 years old, because I felt very often like I was the only person in the entire world who understood what I was going through.”

Whether your gift is writing, cooking or something else, find the thing you are good at and use that to put good into the world.

For instance, Rossi said, you can speak out about kindness, speak out against anti-semitism or even bake cookies to share with those attending a rally.

Rossi lives by the motto: “Food is love is love.”

“When I was a starving artist trying to survive in Crown Heights, I would take a few dollars and my mother’s care packages and somehow weave together a meal that would feed all my starving artists friends,” she said. “For $3.99 cents, I managed to put together a meal that fed 10 people and they were so happy.

“They were so full of love and joy; their stomachs were full and it’s a powerful thing.”

Perhaps the ultimate comfort food is mac n cheese. Chef Rossi’s recipe is below.

“I think the secret ingredient is just really taking the time,” she said. “If you rush through it, you might not have the great balance; you want to really whisk it with a lot of love in your heart.”

Follow @ChefRossiNYC on Instagram and learn more at TheRagingSkillet.com. Find “The Punk Rock Queen of the Jews” at Bookshop.org or at your favorite place to buy books.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Chef Rossi’s Zingy Gluten-Free Mac n Cheese

I start by making a roux. That’s fancy French talk for flour and butter. When I make this, I am making a lot of it, so, I start with one pound of sweet butter and 1 pint of Gluten free flour for mac and cheese for 100! For Normal folks, scale down a lot.


3 tbsp sweet butter

3 tbsp gluten-free flour

Hot sauce or tabasco


2 cups milk

~ 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

~ 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated

Seasonings: paprika, old bay, celery salt, garlic powder and ground black pepper

1 box of pasta

For mini-pies:

Baby-tart shells

For mac fritters:

1 egg

Gluten-free panko

Drop three good spoons of sweet butter and three good spoons of gluten-free flour

Into a deep, heavy bottom pot.

Melt your butter and stir in the flour then keep stirring over low heat for a few minutes.

Then I stir in a shot of Franks Hot sauce or tabasco, or both and a good plop of mustard (almost any kind).

I cook this for a few minutes then slowly whisk in milk. About 2 coffee cups of milk should do it. Keep whisking the milk for maybe ten minutes. When you start to feel it pushing back as it’s thickening up, throw in 2 heaping handfuls of grated cheddar and 2 heaping handfuls of grated Monterey jack. I like to season with a good pinch each of Paprika, old bay, celery salt, garlic powder and ground black pepper. I always wait to add salt once all the cheese is melted. If your sauce feels too thick, you can drizzle in a little more milk.

Meanwhile, put a pot of water to boil on the stove. Add salt once boiling. Boil one box of pasta (one pound). I use gluten free elbow macaroni.

Drain the pasta and mix with your hot cheesy sauce.

We like to spray a deep baking dish with cooking spray, so it doesn’t stick, and then pour the whole shebang into the pan.

Mac N Cheese Tarts

Another option is to put it in baby tart shells for mini-mac n cheese pie; just toast it in the oven for a few minutes.

You can chow down and eat just like that. Or chill until you are ready.

It also freezes fabulously. We often chill it overnight and then roll it into balls, dip in egg and then gluten free panko and fry for fabulous spicy mac fritters.

Mac N Cheese Fritters

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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