During my conversation with Canadian-Jewish food influencer Eden Grinshpan, her effervescence and passion for Middle Eastern food was evident. Growing up visiting her father’s family in Israel every summer, family meals were always an experience in itself, with people passing around plates of salatim and fresh laffa bread, laughing and chatting without a care for volume.
This is exactly the feeling she hopes to capture in her new cookbook, Eating Out Loud. Filled with recipes that are “accessible in approach but bold in flavor,” Grinshpan adds her own flair to American Jewish and Middle Eastern dishes. Like a schnitzel sandwich with harissa, honey, and slaw, or a pistachio-cardamom coffee cake. “It’s just kind of taking those flavors and really just giving them a little bit of my twist.” … Okay, you certainly have this North American’s FULL attention.
You might be familiar with Grinshpan as a host of multiple food shows, like Eden Eats, or follow her popular and sometimes over-the-top Instagram account. But you may not know how she got her start in the culinary world.
After her formal culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in London, Grinshpan took a year to backpack in India. While volunteering at an orphanage in Rishikesh, India, she decided to reopen their cafe that wasn’t operating. “I must have been like 21,” Eden remembers. “And I was talking to my parents one night and they’re like, ‘you should film this’. And it was hilarious because I’m like, ‘I’m so busy I have so much to do. I don’t have enough time to stop and film this’. But I ended up buying a small camera and someone at the orphanage actually started filming me.” And that was Grinshpan’s foray into television. Who knew that overinvolved Jewish parents could have such a positive impact?!
Her parents stepped in again, encouraging her to submit her videos to the Food Network, and she was lucky enough to get picked up. In addition to Eden Eats, Grinshpan ended up hosting Log on and Eat with Eden Grinshpan and Top Chef Canada.
Throughout her career, Grinshpan has maintained her love and passion for the food of her childhood. While she grew up with Ashkenazi foods like chicken soup and brisket from her Polish and Romanian roots, she has always connected deeply with the cuisine of her Israeli side of the family. “I’ve gone to Israel every summer of my life. I lived there for two years. I married an Israeli. We’re there all the time.” Her rich memories of summers involve eating hand-rolled couscous on the beaches of Tel Aviv: “it’s almost like you don’t know if you’re eating sand or couscous. That’s how fine it is. But you grew up, just like being covered in seawater, and eating this and chewing on sand too. But you’re just so happy, it doesn’t even matter.”
This connection to Israeli culture led to Grinshpan’s laser focus on the food trends in the past decade: “The food scene just started really becoming such a big deal in Israel…it just started coming out with all these really incredible restaurants and playing around with the incredible produce and the traditional flavors of the country.”
Grinshpan realized that these memories and flavors were all she could think about: “The only food I wanted to make was contemporary Middle Eastern food. And it was this lightbulb moment for me where I was like, wait a minute, this is feeling very natural. I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. I just felt super creative and want[ed] to continue to share a lot of these flavors and inspired dishes that I had while I was traveling in Israel with people in New York.” With this inspiration, Grinshpan opened her own Mediterranean restaurant, Dez, in Manhattan, braving the challenging restaurant scene to fulfill one of her dreams. Ultimately, the restaurant closed. Reflecting on the experience, Grinshpan looks back with pride. “I don’t look at Dez closing as a failure. I’m super proud that it happened. I learned so much from everyone I worked with. Everything’s a learning opportunity.”
The pandemic has also led to a series of learning opportunities, especially the balance of work and family. “The mom guilt is so REAL” Grinshpan notes. Yet, a balance of quality time in the kitchen and day trips in the Toronto area led to a rich summer (and a beautiful Instagram feed). Cooking with her daughter really adds a silver lining to pandemic times. “silver lining: getting to be with my daughter every day and like cooking with her. That’s been truly a blessing for me. And fun.”
Even if we can’t travel right now to try these delicious Middle Eastern dishes, cooking always has the power to transport us. Eating Out Loud is a virtual vacation that I can’t wait to take.