“Your age doesn’t define what you can accomplish, just how long you have had to accomplish it.” – Eitan Bernath
Every once in a while, you come across a person who is living their life so uniquely, that you can’t help but stop and take notice. I’m sure you know this kind of person. They seem to feel so comfortable in their own skin; their actions perfectly aligned with (what you could only call) their inner self. They are loved and appreciated by many. They are focused on achieving the goals they have set for themselves. And, life is good. They are living from their heart space. Welcome to the world of Eitan Bernath.
I met Eitan during one of my Instagram “expeditions” – when I spent time surfing through the profiles of folks who have stopped by Soulivity’s page to either “like” or comment on a post. A few months ago, I saw Eitan’s profile. I was immediately struck by the sheer number of photos and videos he posted on food. And, I don’t mean the typical “foodie-type” photos that are taken at a restaurant, café, or gastro-pub. These were pictures capturing a true love of food and unique adventures in cooking. It was simply amazing, and I was blown away.
I immediately reached out to him, as I wanted to know more about his passion and journey to becoming a chef. However, there is one thing you should know before I continue – Eitan is 15 years old. Yes. 15. Even being so young, he knows and follows what lives in heart – a fire and desire to become a great chef and share the abundant experiences of food with as many people as would listen or watch.
His earliest food memory was a dish he affectionally calls, “beans and cheese.” “This was a simple dish…a can of red kidney beans and canned tomato sauce…warmed up in a saucepan. In another pan, (I would) warm up a tortilla with cheese and (together) you would eat it like a taco.” Eitan told me that even though he makes more sophisticated food, his family will still have a “beans and cheese night” to honor this moment of his journey.
Eitan’s path took a turn for the better when he was chosen to appear on the Food Network’s “Chopped” – a cooking competition show where contestants must prepare restaurant-quality dishes with surprise ingredients in a limited amount of time. On the show, he prepared beef sliders with a cotton candy sauce. Though he had the innovative idea of deep-frying tomatoes to transform them into something more interesting, he ultimately forgot to put them on the plate. He was eventually “chopped” as a finalist. However, host Ted Allen had nothing but praise for him: “He was great — good cooks just seem to get younger and younger.” Eitan says that his experience on the show turned his passion into a career. Though he had done “tons of work” before he appeared, it was being on the show that skyrocketed his passion toward cooking.
This new direction was every evident right after his appearance on the show. He accelerated everything. “I kept pushing.” He started a food blog (CookWithChefEitan.com). Then, it became a weekly food blog. And, though he is in a very rigorous program at his high school (starting at 6 am and not ending until 6 pm), he still finds the time to do what he loves. His enthusiasm for his passion helped him discovered an additional, yet complimentary, passion – food photography. To ensure his final public content is of the highest quality, he built a studio and purchased special equipment. This work ethic really shows how much Eitan believes in his dream and his commitment to pursuing it.
So what is Eitan really “into” right now? Right now, his favorite ethnic food is Indian, though he says that “Mexican is a very close second.” Eitan says, “if you asked me, ‘could you eat Indian food for the rest of your life – breakfast, lunch, and dinner?’ I would tell you 100%.” He explained that his love of these cuisines comes from the layers of flavors that are developed in the cooking process. “For example, in Indian dishes…they focus on are the spices. At the beginning of most dishes, you are browning spices – whether you are frying them in oil, or dry-roasting them. And, at the end (called, a ‘tarka‘), you add more spices, which are fried.” Even with these favorites, he went on to emphasize that he loves all foods around the world.
This desire for authenticity in his preparation of international cuisine includes the tools in his kitchen. “I have a huge collection of international, mostly Indian and Mexican, cooking equipment. I have different types of pots and pans. I try to replicate (the cooking process) here (at home). But, I definitely want to travel to try the local cuisine.”
I asked him about folks who travel and don’t sample the local foods, including that of street vendors. “Personally, I can’t sample the street food, because it isn’t kosher…but, if you really want to find out what the people are eating, street food is what they are eating on a regular, daily basis” Eitan says he watches food documentaries, which inspire him to do research on particular dishes so he can create them at home. “If you are lucky enough to travel…don’t eat in the ‘Americanized’ restaurants. Try the local (fare). Go online. Do some research (before you go). So, you can say ‘I gotta try this…or I have to try that’…” We both agreed that food is an integral part of a country’s overall culture (which includes music, art, and language). It is something not to be missed.
So, what do you do if you want to start cooking, but don’t know where to start? “My first suggestion is to make the food you like to eat,” he says. “That’s how I started cooking. Don’t start with the hard things. Learning how to cook is not easy. You make mistakes. I sure did. You will have cooking ‘fails.’ So, if you start by making the food you already love, you will be more motivated to get it done. My second suggestion is to be careful when you are starting out. It’s like learning how to ride a bike – if you fall once, you may not want to try riding again. So, do some research. Learn online, whether it be cooking classes or correct cutting techniques. When you are getting started, you don’t want to get hurt right away.” He stated that learning how to cut properly is a paramount skill for any cook. “Learn knife cuts. ‘What is a Julianne?’ Learn how to hold the knife, so you don’t get cut or hurt yourself. These things are important.”
What’s next for Eitan? For the future, he says his biggest goal is to have a cooking show on the Food Network. That would be a dream come true. Currently, he wants to publish a cookbook before he graduates high school. He also wants to continue what he is doing now – to expand his following on his blog. Additionally, completing culinary school is on his list. Based on his current progress, I can see Eitan accomplishing all of these goals, perhaps, even more.
What does the word “passion” mean to Eitan? He says, “That’s kind of how I live. It’s how I and others would describe myself – I am very passionate. I am a proud workaholic. Every opportunity I have throughout the day to do work…(if) a teacher lets me out five minutes early, that’s five minutes I can respond to emails, work on the latest blog post, or work on a draft for an Instagram post. Passion is how I live. I am extremely passionate about what I do. I literally do this 24/7. This is my fun.”
What does the word “purpose” mean for him? Eitan says that “it is very important for anyone to find what they love to do. There should be a reason ‘why’ you want to do something. I just don’t go on Instagram and post something; I have a goal for doing it. If you have a purpose for doing it, you will be more motivated.”
Want to know more about Eitan and his passion for cooking?
Be sure to visit his website, CookWithChefEitan.com, and follow him on social media:
Brian Westley Johnson is the managing editor-in-chief of Soulivity Magazine, an online magazine-journal which reaches over 150K people monthly across the globe. For over 25 years, Brian has spent his life traveling the world as a business development professional using his skills and demonstrable expertise in sales and marketing strategy and execution to assist enterprising medium and large organizations in achieving growth targets. Now, he has dedicated his life to a new mission – to support everyone in living their highest quality life with passion, purpose, and joy.