Elizabeth Alpern (MBA ’15) knows the recipe for success. In 2012 this proud Baruch alumna and former Field Fellow opened The Gefilteria, a business venture aimed at breathing new life into traditional, Ashkenazi Jewish foods like gefilte fish, borscht, and pickles. Along with her business partner Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Alpern steered The Gefilteria to success; the duo was included in Forbes magazine’s 2014 list of “30 Under 30” up-and-comers in its “Food and Drink” category.
Alpern ventured into new territory with the recent release of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Food, a cookbook seeking to redefine traditional Jewish cuisine. We sat down with Alpern to chat about the book, the future of Gefilteria, and how Baruch impacted her career.
What are some of your personal favorite recipes from the cookbook?
It’s so tough to choose! The book has more than 100 recipes, from soups to salads to desserts to cocktails, and I cooked all of them so many times! I’d say that the kimchi-stuffed cabbage is one of my favorites for a holiday meal, as is the wine-braised brisket with butternut squash. On the lighter side, I am partial to the Everything Bagel Butter, spread onto a freshly baked bagel or bialy.
Your book was mentioned in the Atlantic recently as being part of a gefilte fish revival. Why was it important for you to ‘revive’ traditional Ashkenazi cuisine?
It broke my heart to see the foods of my tradition relegated to the kosher aisle of the supermarket, where they were processed and packaged. These are bright, delicious comfort foods that are meant to make your home smell delicious. Also, you don’t have to be Jewish to love them! I knew that this cuisine had a wisdom behind it, too. Generations before me had figured out amazing combinations of foods that helped them to preserve the harvest and survive the harsh European winters. We have so much to learn from this cuisine and I couldn’t accept its extinction.
How did your time at Baruch help you start a business from the ground up?
I enrolled in the Zicklin MBA program right after launching the business because I wanted to develop skills to grow and expand my general business vocabulary and knowledge. I was fortunate enough to take many entrepreneurship courses and use my business as my own case study. It was amazing to work with my fellow students on these projects and to get their perspective on the problems I was facing in the real world.
Was there any particular aspect to your Baruch experience that had a major impact on you?
I loved being a Field Fellow. It was such a privilege to sit side-by-side with the professors as they met with clients. I was particularly lucky to get to work with several food entrepreneurs that are up and running today!
Gefilteria now hosts dining events and pop-up restaurants. What else do you see in store for Gefilteria moving forward?
My co-author and business partner and I will be traveling the country the entire fall and winter doing events in conjunction with our book. For now, I’m focused on using this national tour as an opportunity to expand my network and build the Gefilteria brand beyond New York and the surrounding area. I also want to enjoy myself and have fun after two years of hard work on the book! In the long run, I’m certain that because of all of this travel and exposure, there will be many opportunities opening up for us that I could not have foreseen. I’m really interested in what those will be and what will inspire me next.