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Students Face Off on April 7 to Determine Best Cholent Dish at Annual Cook-Off

Yeshiva University students will hold a “Cholent Cook-off” to determine who makes the tastiest and most original of the quintessential Shabbat dish on YU’s Wilf Campus in Weissberg Commons, 2495 Amsterdam Ave. (at 184th St.) on Thursday, April 7 at 2:45 PM. The event is sponsored by YU’s Office of University Housing.

In keeping with the tradition of slow-cooking the stew dish, 16 teams of four students will prepare their dishes the night before. The next afternoon, a panel of discriminating palates will crown the winner.

The judges are Dr. Esther Joel, wife of YU President Richard M. Joel; Elan Kornblum, president and publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine; Chef Avram Wiseman, senior culinary instructor at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts; Jamie Geller, chief marketing officer of and author of Quick & Kosher: Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing; Alan Riesenburger, catering director and executive chef of Fairway Market; Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine; and David Samuels, a noted food writer/critic. The meat for the competition, Kobe-Wagyu beef, is being donated by A.D. Rosenblatt Kosher Meats.

Check out video from last year’s competition.

Cholent, for hundreds of years the traditional Shabbat-day meal for observant Jews in many countries, is a food for which there is no standard recipe; its ingredients are as diverse as the places where Jews have lived. A slow-cooked stew containing meat, vegetables,potatoes, beans and spices, it is one of the classic Jewish comfort foods and a dish that many look forward to from Shabbat to Shabbat.

Cholent in its various forms evolved from a combination of Jewish law and economic circumstances.  Jewish law prohibits cooking on the Shabbat, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.  In order to have a hot lunch on the Shabbat, Jews prepare the Cholent – a one pot dish – before the start of Shabbat and let it cook overnight. Today, a slow cooker or crock pot is often used.  Historically, in the Jewish towns of Europe, a community oven or the oven of the local baker was used.

Economic circumstances dictated ingredients – when meat was scarce or too expensive the Cholent would contain more starch, usually beans and potatoes.  When times were good, more meat would be added to the dish.  In some countries, beef is favored; in others chicken. In Sephardic communities, whole vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers are used, as well as rice and lamb or mutton. Where Ashkenazi Jews use salt, garlic, pepper, and paprika, Sephardic Jews use cumin, hot peppers and pistachio nuts.

The word Cholent and its pronunciations also vary. Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe call it Cholent, Sholet or Shalet, but Sephardic Jews know it as Chamin, a word that is probably French in origin.


Fashion Icon Shares Trials and Triumphs of 25-Year Career with Students at Yeshiva University Event

On March 21, Yeshiva University students learned about the challenge and excitement of starting a business—from iconic American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.

President Joel and Tommy Hilfiger at the March 21 event

President Richard Joel and Tommy Hilfiger at the March 21 event

At an event hosted by the Sy Syms School of Business Student Council (SSSBC) and the Fashion Marketing Club, students and alumni of all majors filled Yagoda Commons for a frank discussion with the designer about the history and evolution of the brand that bears his name. Hilfiger highlighted key learning experiences in his 25-year career and strategies that had helped him overcome difficulties.

“My story is about reaching obstacles and figuring out how to get to the other side, whether it’s over, under or even straight through,” Hilfiger said. “I think we all run up against these obstacles in our day-to-day lives.”

Among the challenges Hilfiger struggled with were an early bankruptcy and the decision to take his label public. However, he noted that his failures had taught him a critical lesson: to learn as much as he could about everything. “I think you have to gain as much knowledge as possible and put it into your bank because you’ll always use it, whether you’re going into fashion, finance or anything else,” Hilfiger said.

The designer faced a more personal challenge when an internet rumor asserting that Hilfiger had made racist and anti-Semitic comments on Oprah began circulating in 1996. At the YU event, Hilfiger addressed the rumor of the earlier episode—which both he and Oprah denied ever occurred when he went on her show for the first time in 2007.Hilfiger Audience

“It’s devastating to me as a person because it’s so untrue and so ridiculous,” Hilfiger told students. “I wanted to tell you myself how I feel about this.”

During the lively question-and-answer session that followed, the designer encouraged students to ask him about anything from the rumor to international marketing strategies and personal stylistic favorites. He also offered advice to the many aspiring fashion designers and entrepreneurs in the room.

“Pack your mind with knowledge about people,” Hilfiger said. “Work in a retail store, learn how things fit, learn how people shop and what their needs and desires are. I think I learned a lot by having my own stores because I was actually working one-on-one with the customer.”

Hilfiger“He’s a business success who never forgot where he came from,” said YU President Richard M. Joel, who attended the lecture. “As a man of business he is both a thoughtful entrepreneur and a caring philanthropist. As a human being, he works to have his reputation appear as sterling as it truly is.”

For students, Hilfiger’s insight into forging a high-profile career in a tough industry was significant. “He started out just designing and selling jeans but he figured out how to turn his dream into an empire,” said Melanie Pudels, president of SSSBSC. “I think his story offers an important message to any major.”

In at least one important way, the event signaled a new chapter in the relationship between the designer and Orthodox Jews.

“Mr. Hilfiger,” a Stern College for Women student asked, “would you be able to design a longer skirt?”