Meet Chef Shaya Klechevsky
Growing up, I remember being in the kitchen Friday afternoons, watching my mother prepare the elaborate meal for the Sabbath evening. Basics made a weekly appearance: chicken soup, rice, and chicken. However, different delicacies always accompanied them. The fish course often changed; sometimes salmon, sometimes gefilte fish, sometimes tilapia. My mother always added a myriad of exotic Middle-eastern side dishes, such as bamya – an okra dish in a tomato sauce.
I recall asking my mother questions, “How do you know when the onions are ready?” or “When do you know when to put the garlic in?” She patiently explained the fundamental rules, encouraging my interest. When I was 11 years old, I started preparing breakfasts. I started with scrambled eggs, and slowly graduated to French toast. My confidence in the kitchen grew as my curiosity and sense of adventure began to flourish.
Once college began, my desire to cook took a back seat to the challenge of academic pursuits. As I explored the topics of psychology, health, and nutrition, I developed a career path. Cooking was not in the equation. After graduation, I decided to take a break from the academic setting and get a job. I had more time, and rediscovered the kitchen.
Today, I’m still unable to fill out a graduate school application, but my cooking “hobby” is now a full-fledged passion and career.
I enjoy the tactile sensation of chopping an onion, the smell of garlic frying in a pot, the sizzling sound of raw meat as it hits a scorching skillet, and the decorative task of making it look inviting on a plate. Food and cooking allow me to be creative in the ultimate artistic medium – one that stimulates virtually all five of our senses.
Cooking has become an essential part of my life. To further my interest, I attended the French Culinary Institute. At the FCI, under the tutelage of world-renowned chefs, I learned the full spectrum of cooking technique and secrets. I need to love what I do if I am to be successful and happy in life, and cooking fulfills my need.
Career Goals: Overall, I feel deeply committed to a number of things. First and foremost, it is my personal and professional goal to expand the kosher palate. By that, I mean I want to show people of all cultural backgrounds, but primarily those in the United States, that kosher food isn’t just brisket and matzah ball soup. That kosher food is really a guideline for how to prepare food and not the actual food itself.
With that in mind, I feel that I am in a good position to be able to look at recipes that are very un-kosher in their traditional preparation, but with some creativity and resourcefulness, I can do a whole conversion on it to create a reasonable if not perfect facsimile of the original dish. I also find myself doing a lot of cooking classes, both private and group, as well as cooking demonstrations.
Fact: I competed on the Food Network show, Chopped in Season 2, the episode was titled “Pride on the Plate.”
Visit Chef Shaya’s Website: www.atyourpalate.com