Rising food star Eitan Bernath takes a look at global comfort food
As a child, Eitan Bernath did not collect baseball cards, comic books or coins like his peers did. He collects kitchen utensils. “My fondest memories of my life always revolve around food,” he says.
Be careful, life is still young. Bernath is only 20, but he’s managed to harness his love of cooking to become a social media influencer and TV personality. This spring, he released his first cookbook, “Eitan Eats the World,” published by Clarkson Potter.
The book contains 85 comfort food recipes from around the world, ranging from a sweet and smoky guac burger to Turkish red lentil soup and Kurdish shamburak or Israeli-style sesame schnitzel.
“Knowledge is power and knowledge is so important,” says Bernath. “The more you learn about the world around you, the better you can be an informed and caring citizen of the world.”
Bernath is part of a wave of young food stars who have taken their springboard from social media, in his case a strong following from TikTok. It has 350 million people watching its content in more than 150 countries and owns a production and entertainment company that employs six people.
He made his first TV appearance on Food Network’s “Chopped” at age 11 – also appearing on “Guy’s Grocery Games” with restaurateur Guy Fieri a few years later – and began creating content at the 12 years old. He considered it a job, monetizing his blog after his third post.
“I was excited to do it before anyone watched,” he says. “I was really just as excited when I was getting 100 views when I was 12 until now and getting millions.”
He is the lead culinary contributor for “The Drew Barrymore Show” and was recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for food and beverage.
Raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, Bernath says both of his parents were educators and used food as a vehicle to teach him and his brother about the world around them.
“Growing up in a Jewish family, food is central to community and culture, as it is to many other communities,” he said. “It’s a great way to savor delicious food, but also learn about the world around you.”
Recipes from “Eitan Eats the World” take readers from the Middle East to Spain, from Italy to India. Bernath makes sure he gives credit to every kitchen and is “appreciative, not appropriate”.
“I take the perspective of, I am a learner who shares with my followers what I have learned. Of course, I’m not an expert on Indian food or Mexican food or Italian food, because I’m not Mexican or Italian or Indian, but I’m someone who likes to get to know them.
Growing up, he could often be found in his bedroom glued to food documentaries, carefully watching the elders in India, Mexico or Italy cook, and filling in his notebooks. Then he would walk into his kitchen and try to recreate what he was looking at.
To prepare the book, he also turned to the Internet. But he realized he had to be very creative because it’s hard to create something that nobody else has done.
“A lot of times as a recipe developer you have an idea and you’re like, ‘Oh, this looks so good! I love this idea.’ And then I’ll go to Google and wonder if anyone has done this before, and I’d say 99.9% of the time the answer is yes, someone has.
Therefore, Bernath came up with some surprising combos hidden in plain sight, like Bruschetta Avocado Toast, which is the fusion of two favorite bread toppings. “It’s like a pairing where I’m like, ‘Why haven’t I done this a million times?’ This is delicious.”
Lightning struck twice when Bernath took the classic tuna fondant and elevated it with a French croque monsieur treatment. The latter’s traditional ham is replaced by tuna, and a Mornay sauce is added. This one he calls “sincerely delicious.”
Bernath is a food evangelist and says there are a lot more career paths in food than most people realize. He also fends off some who sniff that he needs to work at a restaurant to call himself a chef.
“I think a chef is someone who makes money cooking, who works in the kitchen,” he says. “I think at the end of the day, whatever you call what I do, whether I’m a chef or not, the world changes.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits