Passover Prep Key at Berman Commons

Passover Prep Key at Berman Commons

By Fran Memberg |

So you’re making Passover seder in your brand-new kitchen in the custom-built home you just moved into. Bubbe and Zayde will be at your table, so you’re hoping your guests will exclaim, “Oh, this is just like Grandma used to make,” when they taste the dishes you’ve lovingly prepared.

Edward Kraitman for Atlanta Jewish Times
Photo by Michael Jacobs
Berman Commons executive chef Edward Kraitman and sous chef Marina Sirota get some practice in the new kitchens before the March opening.

Imagine serving up those treasured recipes to 20 or 30 or more grandmas, all of whom were renowned among their family and friends for making the best (fill in the Passover recipe of your choice).

That situation doesn’t intimidate Edward Kraitman, the executive chef at Berman Commons, the assisted living facility for the Jewish community that opened in early March in Dunwoody next to the Marcus Jewish Community Center. He is proud of his experience as the executive chef at the Renaissance on Peachtree, a senior living community with a high percentage of Jewish residents who Kraitman says had no complaints about his food.

Planning and organization are the keys to minimizing stress for a seder hostess and even more so for a chef preparing for a communal seder and an entire week of kosher-for-Passover meals for as many as 40 residents, the number expected to have moved into Berman Commons by Passover. Kraitman’s menus were planned before any occupants arrived, and the cooking started a week before the April 3 first seder, to be conducted by Rabbi Brian Glusman.

Berman Commons, the only kosher assisted living facility in metro Atlanta, is fitted with amenities that would make Passover prep much easier in any private home: separate meat and dairy kitchens that have their own Passover paraphernalia, including ovens, walk-in coolers, cookware, dishes and silverware.

Kraitman eliminated chametz (bread and other leavened products and grains) from the daily menus when he started cooking for Passover.

Residents are already singing praises about Kraitman’s cooking. One gentleman said the “soups are very unique.” A female resident said she “enjoys every minute” of mealtime.

Fred Glusman, the Berman Commons kosher supervisor, who held similar positions at local senior residences that formerly had kosher kitchens, said Kraitman is an excellent chef. He appreciates that Kraitman was knowledgeable about kosher laws before starting at Berman Commons.

Kraitman donned his Berman Commons chef’s toque in December 2014. Berman’s executive director, Jenice Cunningham, had tasted Kraitman’s cooking. “We connected, we met, and I was very impressed,” she said. “He creates an atmosphere of excitement in the dining room. It’s a dining experience — service, presentation and energy. He and the staff go out to meet the residents and get to know them and their needs. There are no plates with food on them at the end of the meal.”

Kraitman, 50, learned cooking basics as a child helping his mom and grandmother in their Jewish kitchens. He has culinary degrees in food preparation and kosher food preparation. In the early 1990s he was a kosher chef at an army hospital in Netanya, Israel, where then-Gen. Ariel Sharon ate with soldiers when he visited them.

In 1993, Kraitman moved to Atlanta, where family members lived. For many years he was the catering chef for the former Quality Kosher Emporium while also working as a sous chef at Chateau Elan. He even cooked again for Sharon when he visited Atlanta in the mid-1990s. From 2001 to 2003, Kraitman was a sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, and he was executive chef at the Ivy Hall senior living community in Alpharetta until 2012.

He was at the Renaissance for two years before joining the Berman Commons staff.

Kraitman supervises three chefs, a number expected to increase to nine when Berman Commons fills all 90 apartments. Three servers bring food restaurant-style to residents; three additional servers will be added as more residents move in.

Sous chef Marina Sirota worked with Kraitman at the Renaissance. “She helps me provide quality,” Kraitman said. “She’s my right hand, left hand and my eyes in the kitchen.”

Kraitman and staff prepare three meals daily. Instead of adding salt and pepper in the cooking process, he relies on healthful ingredients and uses spices, herbs, stocks and other flavorings to create tasty dishes. All meals are cooked onsite, including a traditional Shabbat dinner on Friday nights. Kraitman consults with a Berman Commons registered nurse regarding special diets required by any residents.

“I love working at Berman Commons and in the Jewish community,” said Kraitman, a married father of three sons. “You need to see the smiles of these people. They are happy. They enjoy life. They love and respect life.”

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

1½ cups dry quinoa

4 tbsp. olive oil

9 green bell peppers (8 whole, 1 chopped)

2 medium onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp. dried tarragon

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice of 1 fresh lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the quinoa according to package directions. When it is ready, set it aside, covered. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops (the most common procedure) or slicing lengthwise (chef Edward Kraitman’s preference). Clean the peppers thoroughly and remove all seeds and membranes from inside.

Sauté the chopped onion, green pepper, carrots and celery in the olive oil until the onion is lightly browned. Add the cooked quinoa to the sautéed vegetables, then add the rest of the ingredients to the stuffing mixture.

Spoon the quinoa-vegetable mixture into the peppers and put the peppers into a baking pan lightly greased with olive oil or Passover butter or margarine. Cook until the peppers begin to brown around the top edges, about a half-hour.

Serves 8.

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