Judy Zeidler: Foodie, Author, Friend, 92

The world lost a food icon and friend.
November 1, 2022

The world lost a food icon and friend.

After a lengthy illness, Judy Zeidler passed away in the early hours of October 31 at the age of 92. 

A well-known food authority, author (“The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook” among others), TV show host, and restaurateur, Zeidler believed that the shared enjoyment of food and wine was one of the most fulfilling elements in life and that cooking and entertaining should be fun. 

Her family said that “one of her greatest joys was sharing her love of food and cooking, through writing, teaching and entertaining friends new and old.”

She was never too busy to open her kitchen and to donate cooking classes to benefit charitable organizations.

Through her cooking classes, she thrived to inspire her students to cook and entertain at home. She was never too busy to open her kitchen and to donate cooking classes to benefit charitable organizations.

A longtime contributor to the Jewish Journal (1994-2017), Zeidler wrote for The Los Angeles Times for more than two decades (1977 to 2000). Most of her time was as the Times’ Jewish food writer, some of it as a syndicated columnist and in the later years as a special contributor. Readers everywhere looked forward to Zeidler’s Jewish holiday articles; in fact her Potato Latke recipe won a Los Angeles Times Best Recipe Award. 

Born in the Boyle Heights (City Terrace) area of Los Angeles in 1930, Zeidler and her family moved to Eagle Rock, where she graduated from Dorsey High School. When she was a teenager, she met Marvin Zeidler at a B’nai Brith Eight Ball Dance. They married a few years later in 1950.

The Zeidlers’ move to a ranch in Topanga Canyon in 1963 – with four children and another on the way – kicked off her cooking career. She made her signature strudel for The Discovery Inn, ready to bake on order. 

 In the 1980’s and 1990’s she hosted “Judy’s Kitchen” on the Jewish Television Network (JTN). In 1990, the “LA Times” said that it was “probably the best-known program on JTN.” After a few years of episodes on Jewish and holiday cooking, her show began hosting many of the top chefs in Los Angeles, demystifying kosher cooking. This included Thomas Keller, Joachim Splichal, Evan Kleiman, Michael McCarty, Josie Le Balch and Michel Richard, as well as Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken in their first television appearance. Many of the recipes were later compiled in her book, “Master Chefs Cook Kosher.”

Restaurateurs, art collectors and philanthropists, the Zeidlers were a team for their 72 years of marriage, and teenage years before that. They spend several months in Italy and France each year, visiting restaurants and food and wine purveyors; collecting new recipe ideas and food inspirations. 

Her final book, “Italy Cooks,” was in many ways a memoir of their 35 years of travel through Italy, including recipes from some of their friends. These friends were top restauranteurs throughout Italy, such as Massimo Bottura, Nadia Santin and Dario Cecchini, whom the Zeidlers befriended when he just had a little butcher shop. 

Zeidler’s other cookbooks include “Judy Zeidler’s International Deli Cookbook” and “30-Minute Kosher Cook.” She also co-authored “Home Cooking with a French Accent” with French chef Michel Richard. A frequent guest on national television and radio programs, Zeidler was on the board of several food and wine societies.

The Zeidlers also prided themselves on supporting upcoming artists, especially Los Angeles artists, and even involved them in her cookbooks. “The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook’s” illustrations are by Peter Shire; “Italy Cooks” are by Suzanne Dunaway. The Zeidlers’ art collection has early works by Duane Valentine, Sam Francis and John Altoon.

The Zeidlers co-founded the popular Citrus restaurant in Los Angeles, the Broadway Deli and Capo and Cora’s restaurants in Santa Monica, Brentwood Restaurant in Brentwood and Brass Cap in Santa Monica.

They became early supporters of the Skirball Cultural Center, when it was still housed at Hebrew Union College, and later created the restaurant at the Skirball, Zeidler’s Cafe, and now also at the Skirball, Judy’s Counter.

“Throughout our more than four decades of cherished friendship with Judy and Marvin Zeidler, Myna and I remained in awe of Judy’s unique ability to rejoice in times and seasons, festivals and celebrations, birthdays and anniversaries. She never forgot one, and she celebrated each in her incomparable way,” Skirball founder Rabbi Uri Herscher told the Journal.  

According to Herscher, every occasion had its special and delectable meal, followed days later by Zeidler’s photos and comments, which they savored as much as the meal itself. 

“The circle of her warmth and hospitality embraced us in the moment and beyond the moment,” he said. “Judy’s zest for life was our constant delight. It enriched our lives and heightened our joys. As manifold as were her culinary talents, they were exceeded only by her vitality and love.”

In addition to her son Marc, who passed away last year, Judy Zeidler is predeceased by her parents and her sister Sharyn Royal. She is survived by her husband Marvin, her other four children, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. 

While the kitchens may now feel a bit empty, may the memories of Judy Zeidler and her meaningful contributions to the Jewish food world be a blessing.

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