Amy Kritzer is a recipe developer, personal chef, and founder of the award-winning blog What Jew Wanna Eat. I met Amy online when I started Jewish Food Hero in 2014, and admired her personal passion for Jewish food and modern interpretations of classic recipes.
Let’s get to know Amy and learn from her.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Connecticut and lived in Atlanta, Barcelona, and NYC before moving to Austin, Texas where I live now. I love it in Texas! I started my modern Jewish recipe blog, What Jew Wanna Eat, soon after moving to Texas, eventually going to culinary school and then blogging full-time. I just finished my first cookbook which comes out in summer 2016. In my free time, I love theme parties, traveling, and frolicking outside.
How do you connect to Judaism?
My connection to Judaism is more of a cultural one. There is nothing I love more than gathering my friends together for our annual seder, or hosting a Shabbat dinner, or working with other Jewish businesses in town to host fun (but sneakily educational) events.
How do you prepare to host people for a holiday meal or celebration?
I love to get other people in the kitchen with me! People want to help and learn, and getting dirty allows them to feel a part of the day. To me, the prep and anticipation is half the fun. We usually plan a menu literally months ahead of time, shop together, and then the best part: eat together!
How does the ideal holiday celebration look and feel to you?
Lots of delicious food, both traditional and modern, and tons of laughter. I like to make new traditions and add games, jokes, and other personal elements. The fun is the best part!
Leading up to, during, and after the holidays, how do you reconnect with yourself?
I make sure to work out often, stay organized, and splurge on having the house cleaned after!
What is one of your most memorable holiday experiences?
I had so many amazing holiday experiences growing up, but the first time I hosted my own seder in college stands out as a proud moment for me. I had nearly 20 people over–most were non-Jews–and shared an amazing dinner. There was tons of homemade food, my version of the haggadah, and a bottle of Manischewitz per person (hey, it was college). There was lots of love, the scent of roasted chicken and rosemary potatoes, and tons of laughter. I didn’t have enough chairs so we all sat on the floor, but it was perfect in its own way.
What’s your absolute favorite holiday dish?
Ooh I love them all, it’s like picking a favorite child. I’d have to say brisket is one of my favorite dishes to cook, serve, and eat. I love that it’s also traditional in Texas, how versatile it is, and how the meat starts off tough and ends up super tender. There are no dishes on my bad list–even gefilte fish is welcome! Some just need a bit more love.
Do you have any nontraditional holiday rituals or habits?
Tons! I think it’s so important to make a holiday your own. I incorporate Texas flavors, for example, into my Jewish dishes: jalapeños in falafel, avocado in latkes. It’s the new traditional.
What was something that your mother (or another influential figure) shared with you about the holidays that has stuck with you?
To always invite people with nowhere else to go, even strangers, over for holidays. Welcome not just your relatives, but new friends too. It always makes for a more enjoyable experience to have new faces (and stories, and inevitable jokes).
What’s your number one tip or trick you’ve discovered that makes the holidays smoother, more positive and meaningful for you?
Don’t worry! Holidays are supposed to be enjoyable. And when people ask if they can bring something, say yes. Two things I suppose!
Amy, thank you for sharing. I particularly resonated with your mother’s advice about inviting people who have nowhere else to go over for the holiday, and your tip on learning to accept help from others.
This post is part of our Chag Notebook series where we interview inspiring women and men about their approach to the holidays. What resonated with you about Amy’s approach?