Savoring the Simply Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off

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The Fourth Annual Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-off winner, Sarah Freedman-Izquierdo, with Head Judge Chef Jacques Pepin and Manischewitz CEO David Yale. Source:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially named March 18th “Man-O-Manischewitz” day, and not a moment too soon!

Manischewitz, the company that single handedly brought matzo to the masses, hosted their 4th Annual Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off yesterday at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan.  Five contestants battled it out for the grand prize - $25,000 in cash and prizes including brand new, GE Stainless Steel kitchen appliances for their home.

Our day began with a private tasting with none other than legendary international chef and author of Fast Food My Way, Jacques Pepin. Chicken Supremes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce and a Chicken Bouillabaise brought our chattering mouths to a silence as we savored the culinary works of genius being served up. The uber-charming and elegant Pepin worked the room like a rock star. He was generous with his time and kindly signed autographs and posed for photos with his adoring foodie groupies.

The event was kicked off by David Rossi, VP of Marketing for The Manischewitz Company and David Yale, President and CEO of The Manischewitz Company. “We received some amazing recipe entries that reflect the diversity of our consumers who span all ethnic backgrounds,” said Yale. And the finalists' recipes were all about diversity: Creamy Tarragon Chicken, Ethiopian Chicken Stew, Hungarian Chicken Spaetzle, Rosemary Duck Cassoulet, and Mandarin Dumpling Soup.

The five finalists – Harold Cohen, Julie DeMatteo, Sarah Freedman-Izquierdo, Rachelle Lapidus, and Jamie Brown Miller – were chosen from over 2,000 submissions. The rules of the cook-off were simple:  The recipes must be developed for a main course, must be original, must be Kosher, must include Manischewitz Ready to Serve Broth, and have no more than a total of eight ingredients, including any garnish (water, plain salt and pepper are not counted). Their recipes were selected and tested by an expert panel of judges who judged them based on taste, ease of preparation, creativity, and originality.

The judging panel consisted of chefs, authors, and all-around foodies including Chef Jacques Pepin, Betsy Andrews of Saveur, Emily Fleischaker of Bon Appetite, our own Jamie Geller of, Jennifer Goren of the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, and freelance lifestyle and travel writer Aly Walansky. “Jacques Pepin brings a level of class and experience to the event,” raves Geller.

OK, with the introductions out of the way, let the cooking begin! The finalists had one hour to both prepare and cook their meals in front of a live and inquisitive audience – no small feat! With the judges looking over their shoulders the finalists got crackin’. The rest of us had our work cut out for us too which was to enjoy the delicious lunch Manischewitz provided.  I know, poor us!

When the hour was up it was time for the judges to get to work and start tasting the food, the sinful aroma of which had been taunting us for the longest 60 minutes of our lives.  This is how the judges were to base their scores – Taste – 50%, Ease of Preparation – 20%, Appearance – 15%, and Originality and Creativity – 15%. After some intense tasting and 20 minutes of deliberation the jury was back: Sarah Freedman-Izquierdo of Miami Beach, FL won the Grand Prize for her Mandarin Dumpling Soup.

“Ease of preparation was very important to me,” says Jamie Geller, author of Quick & Kosher. “If it was a chef’s competition we may have chosen something else but this competition is by the home cook, for the home cook. Sarah took a traditional chicken broth and with a few flourishes like toasted sesame oil, water chestnuts, and some beautifully chopped scallions, she really turned it into something different and elegant.”

“All of the contestants were amazing and it was exciting to see how far kosher food has come,” Geller tells me. “The cook-off attracted cooks who were not kosher, not Jewish, and people living outside of the New York area which is an incredible accomplishment for Manischewitz and kosher food.”

For more information and to see photos from the event, visit