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Eitan Bernath Is on Top of the ‘World’

After making a name for himself as a kitchen wunderkind on ‘Chopped,’ he built a huge following online. Now, at age 20, he’s publishing his first cookbook. And, oh, by the way, all the recipes are kosher.

by
Leah Koenig
May 16, 2022
Courtesy of Eitan Productions/Penguin Random House
Courtesy of Eitan Productions/Penguin Random House
Courtesy of Eitan Productions/Penguin Random House
Courtesy of Eitan Productions/Penguin Random House

When Eitan Bernath was 12 years old, he started a folder on his computer to store recipes for his future cookbook. That might sound precocious, but he had reason to dream. Just one year earlier, he had competed on the first-ever kid-focused episode of the popular Food Network show Chopped. Bernath didn’t win the competition, but the experience solidified his budding love for cooking and food media.

Late last month Bernath celebrated his 20th birthday, and this month, his debut cookbook, Eitan Eats the World: New Comfort Classics to Cook Right Now, was released. The book features globally inspired, eminently cookable comfort foods, from peanut-butter-and-jelly pancakes to beer-battered wild mushroom tacos to Turkish-style red lentil soup. And while the book is not focused on Jewish cuisine, it includes a solid handful of overtly Jewish recipes (like green shakshuka, sesame schnitzel, and chicken soup), which nod to Bernath’s heritage.

Like everything Bernath does, Eitan Eats the World is shaped by his signature mix of boundless exuberance (it is hard to imagine anyone being more hyped to make avocado toast), firm grasp on the culinary zeitgeist, and obsessive attention to detail. “I hired four people to cross-test all of the book’s recipes,” he said. “Four might have been a touch overkill, but I know there are going to be people who are skeptical of my age, so I wanted to make sure everything was as clean as possible.” Some of those early recipes from Bernath’s computer files even made it into the book, though he updated them to make sure they reflect his current cooking style.

For most food writers, authoring a cookbook is a career-defining pinnacle. That is true, too, for Bernath, who said Eitan Eats the World “feels like the culmination of my culinary journey thus far.” And yet, the book is just one small part of a larger food media empire he is building.

As is true for many Gen Z stars, the vast majority of his career has been housed online. Shortly after his appearance on Chopped, Bernath started a food blog (which has since evolved into his personal website). In more recent years, he launched wildly successful Instagram and TikTok accounts (with 652,000 and 2.2 million followers, respectively), and a popular YouTube channel, where he posts cooking tutorials for fettuccine alfredo and homemade marshmallows, as well as videos of himself trying outlandish food experiments like cooking while blindfolded. More recently, after appearing on a segment on The Drew Barrymore Show and hitting it off with the host, he was hired as a recurring culinary contributor.

Bernath grew up in a religiously observant family in Teaneck, New Jersey, and, from a very young age, found himself drawn to food. He was raised on a steady media diet of Food Network shows, of course, but also used food as a way to learn about the world. “I would obsessively watch documentaries about subcuisines in India or Mexico or Italy,” he said. For his bar mitzvah party, he requested the caterer serve lahmajun, or Turkish meat flatbreads.

Many of the dishes he learned about were off-limits from a kosher perspective, but Bernath said the limitations helped fuel his creativity: “If I wanted to experience something I couldn’t just go to a restaurant and try it, I had to make it myself.” In his family’s home kitchen, he could, say, recreate a cheeseburger using a plant-based patty, or make the South Asian dish chicken tikka masala by swapping out the yogurt traditionally used to marinate the meat for coconut-based yogurt.

As Bernath’s career began to take off in his later teens, he shifted from filming videos in his family’s kitchen to the garage, which his parents helped convert into a production set. “I was extremely privileged to have parents who were supportive of my dreams—way before anyone else was,” he said. In early 2021, while most of his peers were studying for college exams, he left his parents’ home for a temporary studio in Manhattan to focus on building his production company, Eitan Productions.

A few months later, buoyed by his runaway success, he moved himself and the company to a duplex penthouse (with an expansive kitchen) in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood. Eitan Productions recently hired its eighth employee, which means at 20 years old, Bernath is a first-time cookbook author and a full time CEO. “It has been a wild learning experience to do this at such a young age,” he said.

Bernath has deftly avoided being pigeonholed as a kosher cook. And yet, he displays his Jewish heritage proudly, whether that means filming a video of himself trying McDonald’s for the first time (in Israel, where the restaurant is kosher-certified), joining the food council for the food rescue organization City Harvest as an act of tzedakah, or wearing a Star of David necklace for a cooking segment on The Drew Barrymore Show. “For a lot of people who follow me, I might be the only Jew they follow,” he said. “So I feel a great sense of responsibility—particularly during this moment when antisemitism is on the rise.”

You have to squint a little to see it, but all of the recipes in Eitan Eats the World are kosher-friendly. He included a recipe for that dairy-free chicken tikka masala, along with a mushroom-based riff on a classic Philly cheesesteak, and queso fundido where plant-based protein substitutes for the chorizo. “My kosher readers will notice, but most other readers might not,” he said. For Bernath, as long as his work means people are getting more comfortable in their kitchens, it’s all gravy.

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