BLOOMFIELD – Kosher caterer and chef Steve Shuman says that son Zachary was “born with a spatula in his hand.” Now that spatula is kosher.
In December, the two opened Shuman’s Deli & Bakery, the only kosher restaurant in Greater Hartford. Shuman the elder runs Catering by Shuman and also supplies prepared foods for the kosher deli at Big Y Bishops Corner, and nearly 500 meals a month for kosher Meals on Wheels in Greater Hartford.
Zachary, 25, is executive chef at the 60-seat meat, deli and restaurant, which also does a brisk take-out business. Clientele ranges from members of the Chabad community to non-Jews, Steve says.
The two Shumans represent nearly 40 years of culinary training and style. Steve graduated in the late ‘70s from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., after working at Vallee’s Steak House in Hartford. Zachary trained at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. and Lincoln Technical Institute in Cromwell, Conn. The family’s kosher cooking tradition goes back further: Steve’s wife, Judy Levine, is the granddaughter of the founder of Kramer Kosher Caterers, later known as Maison de Jules, first based in Hartford and later in New Britain, and where Steve earned his kosher pedigree.
Zach knew he wanted to be a chef since 5th grade, encouraged by his father, and would accompany Steve in the kitchen at Avon Old Farms Inn. “When he was little, he would chase me down the street begging to come to work with me,” Steve recalls. Zach got his first line-cook position at Avon Old Farms Inn at age 14.
Through high school, he worked in several country clubs, hotels, and restaurants, where “cooking with heavy cream and duck patés at the same time wasn’t an issue,” he says. He picked up kosher technique simultaneously by watching his father at work, and learned to adapt recipes, substituting vegetable margarine and non-dairy creamer in the classic sauces, for example. Steve says he taught Zach the “art” of slicing deli meats, like corned beef and pastrami, which must be cut across the grain.
Zach says that while a chef’s long hours and hard work are not for everybody, he thrives on the adrenaline rush that comes with the job, and enjoys teaching others how to cook. He often allows high-school students to intern with him, to get a true feel for the profession.
Zach has expanded his father’s kosher deli into a restaurant, with several daily specials and a nightly dinner menu and frequent theme nights featuring prime rib, sushi, and, in March, burgers.
Shuman’s Deli & Bakery, 12 Mountain Ave., Bloomfield, is open from 11:30 a.m. daily except Saturday, until 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. Info: (860) 242-0697
This dish is one of Zach’s specials, “and is such a hit that I’m going to put it on the dinner menu,” he says.
Mediterranean Salmon (2 servings)
Two 8-oz. salmon filets
1/4 c. quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 c. capers
1 c. white wine
1 whole lemon
4 oz. vegetable margarine
2 tsp. chopped garlic
Pan-sear the salmon filets skin-side up. Remove from pan after golden brown. Bake in an oven for 15 min. at 350º with 2 oz. of the vegetable margarine and 1/4 cup of the white wine.
In the same pan you sautéed the salmon, add the chopped garlic, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and sauté all together. Squeeze in the juice of the whole lemon and deglaze the pan with the remaining white wine. Reduce liquid by half. Take off heat and whisk in the remainder of the vegetable margarine. Add salt and pepper to taste.