Where can an observant Jew learn to prepare gourmet cuisine that is not just delicious and pleasing to the eye, but 100% kosher as well?
Until last month, there was no such place. As a result, the vast majority of chefs in kosher kitchens around the world have not been Jews -- at least not observant Jews. Yochanan Lambiase, a 34-year-old English-born newly observant Jew -- whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all chefs at elegant hotels in Italy -- was dismayed to find that yeshiva students weren't choosing to become chefs. Maybe, he thought, if he created a cooking school for observant Jews, they would come.
After a year of fundraising, Lambiase opened the Kosher Culinary Academy last month. The academy -- undoubtedly the first kosher cooking school in the world -- is housed in Jerusalem's Holy Land Hotel. To Lambiase's delight, the 10-month course, which is being taught in English, has attracted 28 students ranging in age from 18 to 53; five are Israeli and the rest hail from North America, England, South Africa and Australia.
Recipes included in the curriculum range from French classics to contemporary European-Asian fusion dishes. Lambiase plans to invite chefs from around the world to demonstrate their techniques, including Jeffrey Nathan, head chef of Abigael's kosher restaurant in Manhattan and author of "Adventures in Jewish Cooking."
In April, the school will launch a four-month course for women -- classes currently are open only to men -- interested in learning catering skills or specialized menus.
"My greatest joy," Lambiase said, "will be having the head chef of a kosher restaurant coming out to greet his guests, and everyone realizing that the guy who prepared this delicious meal was an Orthodox Jew."