Riverdale, N.Y.—With eight cookbooks out on the market and over 450,000 copies of her cookbooks sold worldwide, Susie Fishbein is an expert in the kosher culinary field. Her influence reaches across both the Jewish and the non-Jewish communities internationally. She has traveled the world over to demonstrate her cooking expertise and to share her knowledge with local Jewish communities. Surely, Fishbein’s hold as a media and cooking celebrity in the culinary world is here to stay.
On May 13, Fishbein will be coming to the Riverdale Jewish Center on Independence Avenue. She will be showing off her culinary skills and giving cooking demonstrations right on time for Shavuous.
But how did she become what she is today? Fishbein is glad that she ended up in the culinary field, although she came to it in a roundabout way. She never thought that she would pursue cooking as a career, and said, “In fact, I didn’t. I was a tenured fourth-grade teacher on Long Island with a Masters in Science Education.” It was a very different path than the one that she thought she would pursue, but something that she happily stumbled into.
As a child, Fishbein said, she was always interested in and eager to learn how to cook and how to present her food in an artful way. This can be seen today in the beautiful photographs in her cookbooks, which show off her food to its best advantage. After co-editing a cookbook called “The Kosher Palette: Easy and Elegant Modern Kosher Cooking” in 2000, Fishbein decided to hone her cooking skills. She started off by taking lessons and collecting recipes from other trained chefs. Her goal was to bring easy-to-make and elegant-looking food to a kosher audience, and she thus embarked upon her own journey towards cookbook publishing.
Of her now world-famous cookbook series known as “Kosher by Design”, Fishbein has said, “My career has been a combination of hard work and a ton of mazal. Being in the right place at the right time, just as the kosher world was exploding, was what allowed me to create the `Kosher by Design’ brand.” Whenever she starts working on a new cookbook, Fishbein enthusiastically said, she always feels energized and excited to start a new project, today as much as ever. Her cookbooks follow the timeline of her life, “from a young mother, to a working woman, to a mother of college kids. Each book covers a time and place and food that I wanted to share,” she said.
Fishbein said that she prefers cooking to baking, since there is a lot more freedom in cooking. She is always experimenting with the creation of new recipes. She loves to start off with an assortment of different ingredients and no recipes and then see what she can turn out as a result. Fishbein has been writing these cookbooks over the course of 12 years. After finishing one cookbook, she takes only one day off before embarking upon the next project. “That has been my life for 12 years,” she said, “so yes, I am always experimenting.”
Not only does Fishbein spend her time creating new recipes and new cookbooks, she also travels the world, sharing her vast knowledge and love of cooking. From Israel to Canada, from cruise ships to Disney World and even the White House, Fishbein’s career has allowed her to experience new cultures and cooking methods. One of her favorite cooking venues has been Italy. “I love cooking in Italy and have worked in Tuscany and on the Amalfi Coast and in July will be working in the Northern Lakes area. The way that their culture adores food is really exciting and inspiring.”
Cooking in Europe in general and certainly in Israel has often led her to use different ingredients and to experiment in ways that she might not have imagined before. Such travels have, she said, “opened up a world of ideas to me through various spices and spice blends. I am currently writing recipes that use sumac, Hawaij, and ras el hanout. With no added calories, you can travel the world through a spice rack.”
Fishbein grew up in Oceanside, N.Y., and now resides in Livingston, N.J. with her family. They are, she said, “my professional eaters and nachas scheppers.” You can see Fishbein’s demonstration at the RJC, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. on May 13, in the Social Hall. The cost is $50 per person. See more here: http://rjconline.shulcloud.com/event/Susie_Fishbein.
By Bracha K. Sharp