Mix together food, friends, fun, and a fabulous new cookbook, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a great night out! Jamie Geller’s newest cookbook launch party took place Monday evening October 21 at the tony Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and I was thrilled to be there as one of the media invitees. Avid fans, new and longtime friends, and publishing and food aficionados mixed and mingled while being treated to an exclusive (and delicious!) taste of some of the 200 recipes featured.
Jamie’s career took off with her debut cookbook entitled Quick & Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing. Often dubbed the “Queen of Kosher” (CBS) and hailed as the “Jewish Rachael Ray” by the New York Times, she is also the founder of Joy of Kosher Magazine and Kosher Media Network. Jamie’s straightforward, friendly delivery coupled with her sensible approach to cooking is vastly appealing to today’s busy moms. Her goal is to get you out of the kitchen in record time, and she does so with easy to follow recipes that look great and taste even better. With her latest edition, Joy of Kosher, an incredible mix of family, food, and heart, Jamie’s cookbook career is poised to enter the stratosphere.
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins, one of the top five cookbook publishers in the world, Joy of Kosher is, well, full of joy! Jamie’s innate exuberance and boundless love for her family, friends, and easy to create dishes are in clear and beautiful display in every picture, story, and recipe, throughout the 375 page book. I caught up with Judy Linden, Jamie’s agent, and Cassie Jones, executive editor of William Morrow Cookbooks, and asked them to describe Jamie. Their combined, effusive response included a list glowing and adjectives—“Warm! Funny! Loving! Hard working! Creative!”
Judy met Jamie in the aisle of Wegman’s in New Jersey where she was buying a box of matzos and Jamie was signing books. Intrigued, she struck up a conversation, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. She expounded on what makes Jamie’s cookbooks so unique, stating “Jamie is a family loving woman who understands the needs of all of us to make fresh, yummy food without slaving in a kitchen. She’s as passionate in real life as she is in her book!”
Ari White, executive chef of Gemstone Catering and pit boss of the Wandering Que, was handpicked for the event by Jamie. He deftly orchestrated the creation of more than 20 dishes directly from the pages of Joy of Kosher. Tray after tray of delectable and simply yet beautifully displayed samplings made their way out of the open kitchen under his guidance; the buffet style table offered several more. As the evening wound down, Ari took a minute to share his thoughts and feelings about his first cookbook launch, admitting that at first, he was a bit nervous about creating someone else’s recipes.
“They’re really good—simple to make yet great tasting! I will absolutely and with great enthusiasm include several of the dishes I made tonight into my current armory of recipes.” One of his favorite was the Triple Deli Pasta Salad. “It’s the ultimate combination. It’s got the ‘oh wow’ factor and falls perfectly into the category of a dish that can be prepped in advance and ages well, making it ideal for Shabbos.”
My personal favorites included the succulent Mediterranean Lamb Skewers, savory brisket in pita, and heartwarming Chunky Red Chili—and that’s before the desserts appeared. Heavenly Toasted Marshmallow Nutty Caramel Brownies, jazzed up chocolate bark, chocolate and caramel coated apples, and numerous cakes—of course my job required that I sample each, and they were all amazing! Delicious but not too sweet, an awesome combination of savory and spicy, with the yin and yang of crunchy and soft; it was a taste bud treat and the perfect ending to a fabulous tasting event.
Watching Jamie throughout the evening, it was easy to see the genuine passion she has for the work she does and the people around her. She was really, truly overjoyed to meet and greet, sign and pose, and thank (and hug!) everyone who came. Jamie radiates happiness and everyone who reads her cookbooks and magazines and follows her blogs, feels like she’s their friend.
I have had the pleasure to meet Jamie though the course of my work, though to be honest interviewing Jamie feels like cheating—it’s so much fun! We spoke Tuesday afternoon after the launch party and Jamie was thrilled to hear that this article was appearing in the Five Towns Jewish Times, as she credits Larry Gordon with jumpstarting her career. “Before anyone knew me, I wrote a column for Larry entitled ‘Secrets of the 15 Minute Chef.’ It was an incredible launching pad, and I am forever grateful.”
Jamie shared that the cookbook was two years in the making, though surprisingly, out of all that time only ten weeks were actually spent on recipe development. “The bulk of time is spent out of the kitchen and in front of the computer! I absolutely love the story writing and sharing my mistakes and fears with the readers. And I love the photography stage when the recipes come to life! This time around I didn’t let the chicken grab center stage,” Jamie shared with a laugh. “I found the most fantastic family photographer to bring my story to life. She’s a frum mother herself, and did an amazing job perfectly portraying the joy and essence of Jewish life, with incredible shots of my family.” Jamie’s least favorite part is the editing. “It’s the most painstaking and stressful process but you have to make sure every single aspect of every recipe is perfect.”
As for the launch party, Jamie was breathless in sharing her excitement. “It was so amazing getting to meet everyone! Connecting with people is what the cookbook is all about. We started planning the launch way back in the summer. You can’t imagine how many calls, plans, arrangements, and details went into it!”
In the year ahead, Jamie will be busy promoting the cookbook, while simultaneously executing all the myriad aspects of her busy life, none the least of which is mothering her five children. With Chanukah coming up, Joy of Kosher is the perfect cookbook to add smiles, inspiration, and great food to your life. v
Shoshana Bernstein of SB Writing & Communications is a freelance writer whose expertise includes marketing, PR, and in-depth articles on a wide range of issues. She is a staff writer at Binah Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.