Keeping Kosher

Alex Idov Kosher Cooking dc 4.jpg

Leven School student integrates kosher lifestyle into culinary curriculum KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Dec…

Georgia (Dec 1, 2015)

Leven School student integrates kosher lifestyle into culinary curriculum

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Dec. 1, 2015) — Holiday gatherings with family and friends center on indulgent meals and sweets, but for Kennesaw State senior Alex Idov, the menu is noticeably different compared to that of his fellow classmates.

An Orthodox Jew, Idov is enrolled in KSU’s Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, and is the sole student, among 200 in the program, who follows the laws of kashrut, a set of Jewish religious dietary rules prescribed by the Torah, the Jewish written law.

“Being a part of the KSU program has made me stay on my toes,” said Idov, who was raised in a home that faithfully follows kosher principles.  “To me, it’s second nature on how our spiritual-based prohibitions affect how we cook and eat.”

In the kosher tradition, certain types of animals are forbidden, meat and dairy may not be prepared or eaten together, and sharp-tasting foods — like onions — may not share the same cutting utensil used for meat, if the cut food will be used for a dairy dish, and vice versa, he explained.

Idov, whose father owned a kosher bakery in Atlanta, grew up in the culinary and hospitality industries and wanted to expand his knowledge, so when he discovered the innovative Leven School at Kennesaw State, he immediately enrolled in the budding program.

“The subject matter of the program is so diverse, and instills what we really need to ‘know’ this industry,” said Idov, who has taken courses in organic agriculture, nutrition, world cuisines and cultures, plant-based cuisine, as well as business courses such as food and beverage purchasing, marketing and organizational management.

“I feel like I have learned a lot about such different parts of the food and hospitality industry at Kennesaw State. It’s a fun way, and still a lot of hard work, to earn a traditional bachelor’s degree in non-traditional settings, like the kitchen and farm,” he added.

Idov said professors have been overwhelmingly receptive to working with his tight dietary restrictions in the classroom, but the response from his classmates is what surprised him most.

“It feels good to share knowledge on this growing market with others, and I was surprised by how intrigued students were about the concept of kosher and learning about my religious rules with food,” he said. “They viewed my niche as an opportunity to learn more about Jewish law and the growing kosher industry.”

Earlier in the semester, Idov and his classmates pitched a restaurant idea for kosher sushi to a group of professional restaurateurs, who applauded their inventive idea.

Many foods, even sushi, can be kosher if selected and prepared according to the Torah, Idov explained.  In a basic culinary skills class, Idov prepared a broccoli soup, which his classmates devoured, but he couldn’t taste because the utensils at Kennesaw State, despite cleaning, have been used for non-kosher foods.

Charles Marvil, instructor of culinary, beverage and hospitality management in KSU’s Michael A. Leven School, taught Idov during a “Spirits, Beers and Brews” class over the summer.  Documentation and further research revealed that production techniques, such as aging in barrels formerly used to age fortified wines, significantly limited a beverage’s kosher status, Marvil explained.  

Earlier this fall, Idov participated in Atlanta’s Visionary Dinner, where he and his classmates served dinner to nearly 500 guests.  He also created, planned and managed a kosher pop-up restaurant, in which all students in the Leven School participate as part of their senior capstone course. 

Held at an off-campus site with a kosher kitchen, Idov’s restaurant attracted 60 guests to savor his modern-American fare of Southern-inspired bourbon-and-Coke-glazed meatballs, Moroccan soup with rye croutons, a carrot souffle, and spiced cranberry sauce and chicken marbella.

“Having ‘Kosh Atlanta’ as one of our pop-up restaurants this fall was a great experience for everyone in the class. We worked with new challenges, executing a full-service event, kosher-style,” said Thor Erlingsson, a lecturer in the Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality program. “Everyone in the class knew a little bit about kosher before the assignment, but now they could use this practical knowledge in their future jobs.”

With all of the restrictions, Idov admits he has a harder time in courses that involve preparing and tasting food. So, he heads home to recreate a kosher version so he can have the same educational experience as his classmates.

Because today’s products offer more kosher options than ever, Idov made tiramisu for his pop-up restaurant using a vegan-based, non-dairy cream cheese to replace the traditional mascarpone that makes the cake’s creamy layers.

“With so many new ingredients coming on the market, we usually can find ways to make the same recipe kosher,” he said.

Idov is turning his broad knowledge learned at KSU into a career in his top industry pick – food media.  He currently writes a food blog, the Kosherologist, and is focused on building his blog into a web series that breaks down kosher misconceptions and educates on worldly influences. 

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- Tiffany Capuano; photo by David Caselli 



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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