Rabbi Praised for Adhering to Jewish Dietary Laws While Competing on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’
Even though Chabad Rabbi Hanoch Hecht did not come in first place on Tuesday night’s episode of the Food Network‘s “Chopped,” social media users praised his efforts during the competition to adhere to Jewish dietary laws.
“Wow, what a Kiddush Hashem!” said one Facebook user, referring to the Jewish phrase that means to sanctify the name of God. Another called the New York-based rabbi “a class act all the way.”
Rabbi Hecht, co-director of Chabad Dutchess-Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Upstate New York, competed against three other clerics — a priest, a pastor and a nun. Unlike his competitors, Hecht was limited in his culinary versatility, due to keeping his meals kosher.
Because the show’s kitchen was not kosher, he could not taste any of the food he prepared, so at several points during the contest, he asked the pastor to sample and critique his dishes for him. The rabbi also used margarine instead of butter in his dishes to keep the meals non-dairy, so as to avoid the issue of mixing meat and dairy, which is forbidden by Jewish law. In addition, he refrained from shaking the hands of his female competitors, adhering to a strict interpretation of Jewish law forbidding men from touching women who are not their wives.
Throughout the contest, Hecht made comments using Yiddish terms, and even sang some lines from the popular Hebrew songs “Hava Nagila” and “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.”
Rabbi Hecht made it to the final round of the competition, where he was asked to create a dessert using the mystery ingredients in the basket presented at the start of each round. He ultimately came in second place after the show’s three judges agreed on flaws in all three of his dishes throughout the competition.
Hecht described the competition as “fierce,” while fellow competitor, Sister Sara Marks, said, “We all come from different faith backgrounds and different experiences, and yet we all have God in common.”
At the end of the show, Rabbi Hecht said he felt as though he had emerged victorious, despite not taking home the $10,000 cash prize.
“I did win,” he said. “The fact that I got to compete, the fact that I represented kosher in a dignified manner… I hope I made a true Kiddush Hashem, a true sanctification of God’s name. So from that perspective, I did win.”