Silberman ’13 enters ‘Iron Chef for Jewish Mothers’
The contest, sponsored by Manischewitz, the nation’s largest manufacturer of kosher products, solicits easy-to-make recipes that incorporate its products. The Cook-Off is open to all “amateur cooking enthusiasts” within the United States, according to Manischewitz’s website. All semifinalists will have their recipes prepared by a professional chef.
Silberman described the contest as “Iron Chef for Jewish Mothers,” and, indeed, he is the only male among his four other competitors from across the United States.
An independent panel of judges selected 15 semifinalists from all original entries — the website did not specify how many there were — of which four will become finalists. Additionally, a fifth finalist will be selected through online voting from another five chosen entries. Silberman is in the latter group.
Online voting, open to the general public, began on Feb. 13 and closes on Feb. 24. Silberman is currently in the lead, with his recipe holding 49 percent of over 5,600 total votes as of Wednesday.
“It’s thrilling to be out there, in a sense,” Silberman said. “I’m not typically the one to gather everyone to look at what I’m doing, so it’s exciting that people everywhere are voting for me.”
This past winter break, Silberman submitted an original recipe for his own “ ‘Mod’ Matzo Ball Soup,” which, as per the guidelines, is a main-course kosher dish that can be prepared within one hour and includes at least two Manischewitz products.
For the past five years, Silberman has noticed ads for the cook-off in a Jewish newspaper.
“My mom makes really great food, so I always wanted her to enter, but all her recipes are too complicated for the guidelines,” he said.
This year, Silberman himself decided to submit an entry — a twist on his grandmother’s chicken soup using his own matzo balls — which he has been making for his family for the past eight years.
“My family has always been really into cooking,” Silberman said. “We always have big festive Friday night Shabbat dinners, and I always helped around the kitchen.”
The second of four brothers, Silberman explained that his matzo ball soup recipe is a modern spinoff of his family’s traditional Jewish dishes.
Silberman’s friend Rafael Abrahams ’13 added that the Silberman family is known for car cake bake-offs, in which each member of the family bakes and decorates a dessert in the shape of an automobile.
“Even so, Eric’s entry in the Manischewitz Cook-Off took me by surprise,” Abrahams said. “I had never known Eric to venture into the realm of liquid food, [although] I am certain he will walk away with the Matzo Trophy.”
All five finalists will prepare and cook their meals in front of a live audience at the grand prize cook-off in New York City on March 28, when a final winner will be chosen.
Silberman has enlisted the help of his friends to publicize his entry and earn him more votes.
“I think his [endeavors] are very admirable,” said Nava Friedman ’13, a friend of his who is also involved in the Center for Jewish Life. “He has a large interest in Jewish culture in general, so it’s something that really hits him, [although] it was sort of surprising to me when I first heard.” Friedman is also a former senior writer for The Daily Princetonian.
In general, Silberman said he has enjoyed sharing his culture and cooking with others.
“Matzo balls have always been a tradition for my family, so it’s been interesting to meet people who have no idea what they are,” he said. “I promised people that if I win, I’ll make [matzo balls] for everyone.”