Welcome to The Tastemakers, a series in which we ask top culinary talents a few questions about the world of food and drink.
From watching endless hours of Food Network programming during her high school days to starring in her own Cooking Channel show, Eden Grinshpan has traversed the world of food and television with purpose.
In her travels and her cooking, the chef and TV personality has been committed to exposing the world to the food she relates to most: contemporary Middle Eastern and modern Israeli cuisine. When she's not visiting Tel Aviv, her favorite food city, she says the kitchen of her New York apartment is filled with the sights and smells of freshly baked challah bread.
We chatted with Grinshpan about the best meals she's had, the television shows she's been a part of and her biggest culinary influences.
How did you get started in the industry, and what made you realize you wanted to work in food?
"When I was in grade 10, I fell in love with the Food Network. I would come home every day after school and watch it for hours and hours. It inspired me to get into the kitchen, and I started baking and cooking little things for my family. When it came time to apply to university, I realized I'd rather learn how to cook and bake than go to college! I attended Le Cordon Bleu in London, and that's where I started my culinary career. I lived there for two years, studying and working part time in kitchens, and I've just been cooking ever since."
What is your go-to food city?
"I feel very spoiled that I've lived in New York City for seven years. I've traveled a lot, but I still always love this city, so I'd be crazy not to say NYC. But Tel Aviv, I think, has some of the best food happening right now—the restaurants are amazing, the chefs are incredible and the cuisine is not just your traditional Middle Eastern food. It's something totally new and exciting.
I also really love Austin. I think Austin has some really great, funky restaurants, and I always end up trying something new. I love its farm-to-table, eat local, 'keep Austin weird' approach."
What dish are you tired of eating?
"Caprese salad. It's really good, but I would never really order it anymore. It's something I've just seen over and over again. The truth is, the tomatoes in the U.S. aren't even that good. In Italy? All day, every day. But here, not really."
What are a few items that are always in your fridge?
What's the most exciting thing you've worked on in the last year?
"I've been very lucky to get to work in the television industry and to have dabbled in many different shows. I just finished up the second season of Chopped Canada, which I love shooting, and then Sugar Showdown on Cooking Channel, which is so much fun.
Last month, I also did a pop-up with a restaurant in Brooklyn called Loosie Rouge, where I got to create the menu with its chef, Olivier Palazzo. I got to work the line, which I hadn't done in seven years. It was such a fun experience. By the end of it, it literally looked like I'd butchered my arms or dunked them in the fryer or something! It was ridiculous. But I loved getting back into the kitchen, applying all of the skills that I learned in culinary school, and showing everyone that even though I've been in the television industry and the social media world for about five years now, I still love to cook. This was the food that I relate to the most: contemporary Middle Eastern and modern Israeli cuisine."
What do you like to drink after a long day?
"I am a huge wino. In the winter, give me red; in the summer, give me white. That's kind of my go-to. But I'm always down for a dirty vodka martini."
What's your guilty pleasure snack while watching your guilty pleasure TV show?
"I have so many guilty pleasure TV shows. That's basically all I watch. My husband and I are obsessed with Married at First Sight. It's so weird and awkward but amazing and genius. And E! News is pretty much always on in our house.
And I think I would probably just say pizza. My husband and I really only order in pizza or Indian food. We're really good eaters. We basically just inhale food, sometimes to the point where I'm actually upset, and I'm like, 'Let's just chill and actually enjoy what we're eating, because we're just inhaling it in a really hideous and unattractive way.' But I really don't even feel guilty! I'm happy with everything in moderation."
Who is the person you most admire in the food industry?
"I'll have to put this into two categories: television food talents and chefs.
Chef-wise, I'm obsessed with Yotam Ottolenghi. He is my absolute favorite chef of all time. I love his approach to food, I love the color, I love the creativity, I love the freshness and I love how he brought a new cuisine to the public. He contemporized Middle Eastern food, and I completely respect that.
In terms of television, I'm obsessed with Jamie Oliver. No one can touch him. I've watched him from the beginning, and I just love the way he talks about food. It's like he's not trying for television, he's just talking passionately about the food he's making. And he's so good at it.
I also completely respect what Rachael Ray has accomplished in her career. She's one of the people who also really got me into the kitchen, because she made everything so accessible and doable. And Nigella Lawson, who is absolutely just a sex bomb dream. All I wanted was to wear a silk robe and eat food from the fridge like she did."
What were your three best meals this year?
"That's like asking parents to choose their favorite child! But I really had a great time at Babu Ji. I got the tasting, and it was fantastic. And I'm all about keeping things authentic, and they do have really authentic, traditional flavors that I've tasted around India, but then again they bring this really fresh outlook to the food. My friend and I just went to town and had the best time ever.
I would also probably say a restaurant in Tel Aviv called North Abraxas. Just sitting at the bar and ordering a dish called chraime with their fresh bread, getting a whole head of cauliflower and a bottle of wine is just pure joy.
And finally, everything that we put into our mouths on the street in Thailand. I had the best street food of my life."
What are you most excited about in the coming year?
"I got married two years ago, and my husband and I keep having these awesome experiences every year. I just feel like it keeps getting better and better, and I'm so excited for what's to come. I'm excited about future television projects, too. There's a lot in the works and, hopefully, I'll be doing a lot of fun, creative things in 2016. There's a lot of potentially cool opportunities to stay creative, to collaborate with really amazing people and to just try to have the most fun doing it."
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