The wife and husband who created a website reimagining how excellent kosher food can be

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CHERYL BAEHR, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Karen Schneider was used to people telling her how good her food is. Anytime she’d cook for people, she’d be greeted with choruses of oohs and ahhs, along with the suggestion that she should turn her hobby into something more. However, when her friend – a professional chef – echoed those words, she began to take the idea seriously.

Now, Schneider, 40, and her husband Ben Schneider, 41, have turned that idea into a mission to reimagine what kosher food can be with their website, YayKosher.com. Part blog, part reference site, and part meal planning program, YayKosher.com is a labor of love for the pair who see their site as an extension of their family table.

“We are fans of all of these cooking shows and for years would make mental notes of all their recipes,” says Ben. Obviously, we couldn’t eat them as they were, but we realized there wasn’t a reason they couldn’t be made kosher. We started exploring that and came up with the idea of a trief hack.”

The Schneiders are particularly well-positioned for this approach to kosher food. Growing up, neither was religious, so they experienced food outside the lens of religious guidelines. However, when they got older and became religious, they were disappointed that there not as many options for kosher cuisine as they would have liked – and the ones they did find failed to impress.

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“In the kosher world, because options are more limited, there isn’t a natural market filter for what’s good and bad,” Ben explains. “People eat there because it’s there, not because it’s particularly good.”

However, over the last several years, the Schneiders have been impressed with the number of good kosher restaurants that have sprung up around their home in Chicago. From a steakhouse to a taco shop around the corner from Ben’s office, they found that people were elevating the idea of kosher food in the restaurant setting with delicious results. It got them thinking that they could do the same for the home kitchen, so they took that knowledge, along with what they experienced in their non-religious past, and created YayKosher.com as a resource for those looking for more out-of-the-box notions of kosher cuisine.

The Schneiders launched their site in November to coincide with Hanukkah, choosing several Chinese recipes as their first resource for visitors. Since then, they have expanded to include everything from Black Forest cake to cheeseburgers, recipe ideas for Pesach, and even a meal subscription plan that they are just now in the beginning stages of putting together.

“It’s a subscription service where you sign up once a week on Sundays, and we will send you a link to a site where we post your meals for the week,” Ben says. “We give you a schedule of what you are eating for the week, links to recipes, and an auto-populated shopping list. Our hope is that people will find it a valuable resource.”

In addition to the service, the Schneiders are working hard to build the YayKosher.com recipe database, as well as their online presence, which involves a lot of collaboration, with Ben building out the website and Karen developing recipes. So far, they have been pleased with the response and feel that they are solving a problem for people who have access to food and ingredients but lack the bandwidth to figure out how to turn that into a meal. However, as Ben laughs, he’s learned to leave the nuts and bolts of the food side of the endeavor to Karen to make life easier for everyone involved.

“I have to be careful,” Ben says. “Karen is the recipe master. Sometimes, I get carried away and have different tastes and not a very good filter. She really keeps me in check. Sometimes, I have to back off when she’s developing a recipe and just go back to my computer. I know my input is not needed – and sometimes will even make it worse.”