Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition
A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported.
Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition.
“I thought my participation would be a fabulous platform for raising awareness about keeping kosher in this evolving food market,” Rabbi Hecht, 34, said. “Kosher presents a unique challenge that many other religions don’t face, in that there are not only prohibitions on what we eat, but also on how we prepare our food. The show was very accommodating. I was very grateful and touched that they were sensitive to my needs.”
“Chopped” showcases four chefs who compete against one another to create an appetizer, entree and dessert, in three separate, and timed, stages. The chefs must use all of the ingredients in the secret baskets they are given at the start of each round, and a panel of judges determines which chef will be “chopped” (eliminated) at the end of each dish. The last remaining chef wins $10,000.
Soon after he finished taping the “Chopped” episode — called “Leap of Faith” — which will air on June 21, Rabbi Hecht said he was surprised at “how real it all was.” He explained, “I think when you’re watching at home it’s hard to believe it’s all real. But when that competition begins, it’s very intense. Those time limits are genuine.”
Rabbi Hecht said that before the taping, he was given a primer on baking by Chef Richard Coppedge, a professor of baking and pastry arts. The rabbi said that baking is “a science, while cooking is more by feel, and I really had very little experience with it.”
“But I can’t say if I even made it to that round,” he added.
Rabbi Hecht said teaching at CIA gives him “an appreciation for food, not in a gluttonous way, but in a spiritual way. We can elevate all the stages of preparation and eating and utilize that energy in our service of the Almighty.” He said he entered the “Chopped” competition mostly confident because of his experience in the food industry and the time he spends in his 1,200-square-foot garden at his home in Rhinebeck, a village in the Hudson Valley.
He gets his children involved in gardening by having them help outside and collect peels to produce compost, according to Lubavitch.com. He said he believes that “going green is a principle in Judaism. The law of ‘baal tashchis,’ not to waste, applies equally to things and the earth.” He also teaches his kids to respect not only the ingredients, but also the process.
When he’s not cooking or gardening, Rabbi Hecht teaches Torah to businessmen in Manhattan. The “Six-Minute Rabbi” presents personalized six-minute classes to 30 individuals each week, Lubavitch.com reported. He said the short lessons, “made for a generation with a 140-character attention span,” allows the businessmen to have a few moments of spirituality throughout their busy day. He explained that the method of teaching also helped him prepare for “Chopped.”
“The fact that I know how to take a tremendous amount of knowledge and condense it into six minutes certainly helped me [on the show],” he said. “I was able to pack an hour’s worth of cooking into 30 minutes.”
“Chopped” is not the first cooking show on which Rabbi Hecht has appeared. In a 2014 episode of AWE Network‘s “American Food Battle,” Hecht invited two European chefs to join him at a Jewish community center in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he challenged them to prepare a signature dish with their own unique spin. Hecht chose his grandmother, Bubby Hecht, to taste both dishes and declare the winner, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.