I spoke last with Chef Shaya, the Kosher Chef who appeared on the national television show “Chopped”. He is engaging, upbeat, and discusses food with passion and artistry.
What was it like competing on the show “Chopped”?
Exciting and surreal. It was an incredible opportunity and a great chance to meet other chefs from different backgrounds.
How was it different competing as a kosher Chef?
That was amazing. The judges responded well and were looking for the connection of food and culture from all the contestants. I loved the idea of adding my ethnicity to the dishes.
What was the particular challenge when you were on the show? We had to make a first course item using all the mystery ingredients in the basket. Mine were duck, polenta, and persimmon. I immediately went to their pantry and grabbed other ingredients like cardamom, limes, and other herbs. I was too busy to be nervous and just wanted to create a great dish in 20 minutes. I seared the polenta and the duck with cardamom and then cooked the persimmon in duck fat. I added lime juice and salt and pepper to the finished first course. Numerous obstacles came up in the challenge, one was that the polenta was not a homemade version but a precooked log that is not all that flavorful. I tried to sear it to add texture and flavor. The second was that the duck was tough and not cooking through in the time I needed. Lastly, I cut myself, which added a little drama to the whole experience.
What is your favorite food to eat and to cook?
That is a hard question. It’s like asking me which finger do you like the most. Lately, I am most intrigued by traditional Japanese and Chinese foods. I love the philosophy, symbolism, and aesthetic connected to each food in their culture. I appreciate how their everyday meals are very balanced, retain the flavors of their natural ingredients and fit the philosophy of their way of life.
What do you always have in your freezer or pantry?
Duck fat, chicken feet, sweet breads, and liver. My pantry…every version and variation of spice like ground chipotle, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. I love to blend my own spices.
What are busy with now?
I am a personal chef and write my own food blog, www.atyourpalate.com . I teach classes at the JCC in NYC, Brooklyn and all over the tri-state area.
Chef Shaya shared some terrific recipes with GKC. Try them and let us know what you think.
For more great recipes from Shaya visit http://www.atyourpalate.com/blog/recipes/ 
Shaya Klechevsky grew up in a home rich in diverse cultures; his mother, an Egyptian native, and his father, a Polish native, brought an interesting mix of food and flavor to every meal. After attending Brooklyn College, where he achieved a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Health & Nutrition Sciences, Shaya found his way to the French Culinary Institute at the International Center for Culinary Arts in New York City’s vibrant SoHo.
There he learned the secrets of French cooking and fused his classic training with his background in Middle Eastern and Eastern European cuisine, resulting in flavorful combinations of ingredients. Shaya uses his passion for good food and a healthy lifestyle to bring healthy, kosher, gourmet cuisine to his clients. Find out how you can have Chef Shaya teach you how to cook (or just cook for you) at www.atyourpalate.com .