The Worst Jewish Cook in America

Published: February 17th 2011
in Culture » Television

Joshie Berger

You’re probably the only Jew in the world who would admit to being a bad cook and a picky eater. Have you faced criticism from other Jews because of this particular quirk?


I think this whole Jews being good cooks is a misnomer based on all the holidays and how often cooking takes place. But I don’t think that necessarily translates into someone being a good cook. My mom happens to be a superb cook and every Shabbos we would have a litany of friends come over to join the tail end of our meal and escape their mom’s awful chulent. And to be honest, since starting to eat non-kosher I cannot find a kosher restaurant that I would order a steak in. Sure, there’s a handful of dishes that via trial and error we have perfected over the generations, but for the most part Jewish food simply kills you faster, without improving the living part by that much.


As for being picky, yeah, I guess that isn’t a Jewish trait. But I was a bratty kid and was disgusted by most foods even back then. I hated that nasty jelly thing called galla my brothers would slobber over, I was repulsed by tongue and even hesitated to start putting tahina on my falafel balls cause I hated dips and stuff. So I had a head start on the whole being picky thing. But I am getting much better, I even stopped using 5 different plates when eating cause I don’t want anything to touch anything.


I was excited to see that you have made it this far especially considering your lack of adventurous eating before the show. What do you think you had that the other contestants who were voted off didn’t have?


I believe I was ready to be booted off the show within the first few episodes if I didn’t adjust my entire attitude. There are only two exciting things in the life of a frum kid: Purim and summer camp. While I have Halloween now to more than compensate for Purim I miss summer camp like crazy. I was into everything from sports to acting to drawing to playing drums to just loving the whole vibe of the thing. I think I showed up to boot camp perhaps trying to make up for lost camp time. I was genuinely giddy to meet new people, share stories, engage in activities and be loud. Then along came Chef Anne. All her quirky, fun and bouncy ways in the kitchen aside, she is a very demanding and sincere person when it comes to her craft. She respects what she does and rightfully insists you do as well. I quickly realized that my shtick was not gonna fly with her at all.


I made it a point from then on to undo the damage and gain her respect. I think she realized I had A.D.D., A.D.H.D. and many other letter combinations and was really making an effort to stay focused and adjust to her style and ways. I think she appreciated that and we saw eye to eye. There is no greater motivator to learn than to feel respected and appreciated. I felt she was very fair to me, even when she was most critical and I really embraced the opportunity I was afforded. I’m not sure other people, who didn’t have 18 years of Yeshiva life behind them, where able to evolve so fast from week to week. Thank you Darwin.


What’s next for you? I know you can’t tell us what happens on the show, but what are you doing post-show? Did the show awaken a desire to go on a shrimp boat? Write a cookbook about matzo ball seafood stew?

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