A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

Get daily updates delivered right to your inbox

Why Kosher rules and ‘The Bear’ keep the J’s Brad Hartman on his toes

Brad Hartman has worked in kitchens all over the world. He was also at one time the owner of Pumpernickle’s deli in Creve Coeur. Recently, he was named head chef at the Jewish Community Center.

Brad Hartman (Bill Motchan)

Hartman, 63, and a member of Central Reform Congregation, learned to cook at a young age from his mom, who was a home economics teacher. Recently, he sat down with the Jewish Light to discuss his new role, the rewards of working in a commercial kitchen and why he tenses up when watching cooking shows on TV, including “The Bear,” which returns with Season 3 tonight (June 26) on Hulu.

What are some of the unique aspects of managing the kitchen at the J?

Making sure that we prepare and send out food that people will enjoy and that we pay attention to the needs of all the different and varied clients that we have. We serve the early childhood center and the adult day center. We do a kosher meals-on-wheels program. You can’t necessarily send an 80- year-old meals-on-wheels client the same sandwich you’re giving to a 7-year-old.

 

Does adherence to kosher dietary laws add to the challenges for your staff?

We have a meat and a milk kitchen. We have meat and milk freezers and refrigerators. And we take it very seriously. We could fudge but there’s a respect I have for the process as a Jewish person. I could sneak a little milk into a sauce to make it better, but it doesn’t occur to me to do it. I’d say, no, that’s disrespectful and it’s not acceptable.

Have you watched the hit TV show, “The Bear” about the pressure-filled kitchen of a fine dining kitchen?

I know that it’s wonderfully done. I usually don’t watch shows like that because I’ll get anxiety attacks. I get all clenched. I think “No, no, you’ve got to get that sauce done! It’s going to burn!” My wife (Margie Guller Hartman) will say, “What are you doing to yourself? It’s not real!” But, it’s real to me.

You’re an alum of the Culinary Institute of America. What that an intense experience?

Yes—getting the final product was not the most important thing. It was the steps you took to get there and how you presented it. I made perfect a hollandaise sauce in my first shot. Making a consommé was one of the first things that you have to master. And it sounds easy, but you have to get the clarity just right. Nobody eats consommé anymore, but getting it right was the sign of a great chef.

What items are always in your refrigerator at home?

Massive amounts of condiments, probably 30. Apple cider, a bottle of white wine, usually a couple of meals worth of leftovers. And always strawberry ice pops. Late at night, I can eat a pile of chocolate or an ice pop.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.