TEANECK, N.J. — Pork chops was the dish that should’ve stumped Meir Levy on a culinary school exam.
While Jewish law has always kept the 25-year-old former township resident from eating them, he said he didn’t have to taste the meat to know that a little bit of salt and pepper would earn him a passing grade.
“I blame my mom,” said Levy, who spent much of his childhood tinkering in his mother’s Teaneck kitchen.
Levy wasn’t always keen on helping his mother, Betsy Levy, prepare for family dinners when he could have been outside playing with his friends, he said.
But the kitchen, Levy said, is where he learned to take care of himself.
“Cooking at home and cooking professionally are two different things,” said Levy, who works in the kitchen at ETC Steakhouse, in Teaneck. “After a long day at work, I have no problem going home and making myself dinner."
Boxed cakes were the first recipes Levy learned to make independently.
He would drag a chair over to the shelves to get the ingredients and follow the directions on the box, taking pride in the puffy loaf that resulted.
“I’ve always been self-efficient,” Levy said. “We had to iron our uniforms at Johnson and Wales, and some people didn’t know how. To me, it was simple.”
Even though there was an open bedroom waiting for him in his parents’ house when he graduated college, he said he wanted to live on his own.
Levy now works in the kitchen at ETC Steakhouse and experiments with original ideas in his free time.
"It's fun to make different things," he said. "And now I can actually try them."