There are two sides of Joseph Carver. During the day, he works as the Chief of Staff at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. But in his off hours, he leaves science behind and relies on his flair for cooking.
“I don’t measure - I cook by taste and smell,” Carver said of his cooking style.
His talents in the kitchen led him to compete in the Manischewitz All-Star Cook-Off.
Every year, Manischewitz, a kosher food conglomerate, hosts a cooking competition where participants submit and prepare a recipe for judges to win a grand prize.
This year, Manischewitz decided to hold an all-star competition inviting past finalists who did not win to compete against each other. Carver, a finalist in 2008, was one of the five competitors selected.
According to the contest rules, each submission must contain one Manischewitz product and one Manischewitz Ready-to-Serve Broth. The dish must be a kosher main course.
“Because I’m a little competitive,” Carver said, “I wanted to win.” He ended up submitting 12 different recipes.
The recipe that made him a finalist is called “Bubby’s Noodle Strudel,” which includes boiled white noodles, sour cream, tofu, cheddar cheese and fried spinach.
Carver derived the recipe from his grandmother’s noodle kugel dish and named it because “bubby” means grandmother in Yiddish. “When my kids were little, my wife and I made the basic noodle [dish] and my kids called it noodle ‘strudel,’” Carver said.
But Carver started cooking long before he had children. He has cooked ever since he was little. Because both of his parents worked, Carver was assigned to kitchen duty.
Instead of viewing it as a chore, Carver finds cooking relaxing and enjoys experimenting with unusual types of food.
“I always try to find bizarre combinations - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “I’m a little bit of a Jewish grandmother. I like to feed people.”
His love for cooking yielded a family tradition. Every year for Rosh Hashanah, Carver bakes challah, a braided bread, for family and friends. He now makes 190-210 loaves and delivers them the night before the holiday.
“It became a really interesting tradition because my kids come over - they always helped growing up - but they come over and we make and deliver it together,” he said.
Today, three generations are part of the process - his grandchildren help prepare the challah, too.
Carver will compete in the All-Star Cook-Off in New York City on March 27.