‘King of Kosher’ donates spoils
Eric Silberman, of Lincolnwood, won a new kitchen's worth of appliances for winning a Manishewitz cook-off but donated them to a West Rogers Park group home. | Courtesy Danielle Miles
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:18AM
Eric Silberman of Lincolnwood hit the jackpot with an award-winning recipe: a matzo ball soup that just keeps giving.
Last spring, the 21-year-old college student took top honors in the national Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off after elbowing his way into the finals as a wild card contestant.
In addition to being crowned the “King of Kosher,” he walked away with a grand prize worth $25,000, including cash and new Maytag kitchen appliances.
Silberman said since his parents had revamped their kitchen prior to him entering the contest, the family only needed a refrigerator and an oven. So he donated a majority of his award to the Libenu Foundation to give others the ability to whip up healthy and kosher meals in the comfort of their home.
“It was remarkably generous and incredibly thoughtful,” said Skokie resident Shana Erenberg, a family friend of the Silbermans who co-founded the non-profit three years ago with Chicago Alderman Debra Silverstein.
Libenu, from the Hebrew word meaning “our hearts,” aims to better serve disabled and special-needs Jewish adults by maximizing their independence and self-determination through inclusive community settings.
Thanks to Silberman’s generosity, Libenu furnished a new group home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with two ovens, microwaves and dishwashers, a refrigerator and freezer, and a combination washer-dryer.
Of all the logistical work it takes to get a group home up and running, accommodating different diets is an issue that worried Erenberg the most.
“Because it’s a kosher home, we need double appliances for certain things,” she explained.
The donation came at just the right time, as seven men moved into the new home in December. The new stainless steel appliances complement their modern kitchen’s granite counter tops and dark wood cabinets.
“Nothing is ever coincidence,” Erenberg said. “We would really have had to raise the funds, and it would have delayed the young men from moving into the house.”
She added: “It’s nothing short of miraculous.”
Silberman, who is finishing up his senior year at Princeton University, plans to visit the group home during spring break to show residents how to make his winning “‘Mod’ Matzo Ball Soup” — a medley of roasted carrots, turnips, onions, diced tomatoes and a pinch of cumin set in a vegetable-based broth.
Until then he’s encouraging others to enter this year’s cooking contest. The entry deadline for the seventh annual Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off is Feb. 4.
“It would be so much fun to watch someone have the same experience,” he said.
A cooking hobbyist — whose soup earned him the campus nickname of “the matzo ball guy” — Silberman offers this advice to aspiring Manischewitz contestants: “Try to think of a way to update a classic recipe.”
But infusing traditional dishes with new flavors doesn’t mean adding an extra layer of complexity. The contest’s guidelines also don’t allow more than nine ingredients, including a broth product.
Silberman said to imagine having to make a meal for 10 friends in under an hour, and there, you’ll find the recipe for concocting a winning meal.
“Keep it easy and simple and enjoyable,” he said.
For more information on the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off, including Silberman’s “‘Mod’ Matzo Ball Soup” recipe, visit manischewitz.com.