New Jacksonville test kitchen for kosher company

Photo: Ann Friedman/Florida Times -Union

When Jamie Geller, owner of Kosher Network International, opened the company headquarters in Jacksonville in September, it marked the third office for the integrated multi-media, merchandising and marketing company.

“It’s a nice, central location and people can get here easily from across the country,” she said of Jacksonville. “It’s also important to be in other places in America other than Los Angeles and New York.”

Geller, the author of several cookbooks including “Quick &Kosher — Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing,” created the Joy of Kosher magazine and website, which boasts more than 8,000 kosher recipes and 500,000 visitors every month.

The company also has a presence on nearly every social media channel, including Facebook.

On June 14, the company unveiled a new test kitchen inside its headquarters on San Jose Place to give Geller and culinary director Laura Frankel the ability to live broadcast what they’re cooking on social media.

“The kitchen will be my laboratory,” Frankel said. “It gives me freedom to experiment and play.”

Frankel added that the nearly 150-square-foot kitchen has two sinks and two ovens in order to follow religious laws, which dictate total separation of meat and dairy.

“It bridges the gap between a home and professional kitchen,” she said. “It looks like you’re in someone’s home.”

To outfit the kitchen, Kosher Network International partnered with several Northeast Florida-based businesses, including home decor boutique Vintage Arts on San Jose Boulevard.

Co-owner Jan Lindahl is also a remodeling contractor and hand built the kitchen cabinets.

Holly Donohoe, Lindahl’s wife and fellow co-owner of Vintage Arts, teamed up with Victoria McCartney of Free Spirit Designs to style the space with vintage pieces, reclaimed wood and local products.

Mary Alice Denaro, owner of Ormond Beach-based Avant Gardens Landscape Design, created a herb garden, a first for Denaro who has spent the last 30 years as a landscape designer.

She planted thyme, basil, rosemary and more than a dozen other herbs.

Geller said Kosher Network International, which also has offices in New York City and Israel, is focused on building another test kitchen at its Israel office.

“We’re going to continue to expand our content of recipes,” she said. “Having a test kitchen will allow us to pump out more stuff.”

Deborah Shapiro, vice president of marketing and operations for Kosher Network International, said it’s exciting to have the test kitchen.

“The most fun part is shooting videos and we now have a place to do it,” she said. “We’re hoping to grow even more especially as kosher is becoming more mainstream.”

Shapiro said another part of Kosher Network International is the insights division, which partners with food manufacturers, brokers, distributors and retailers such as Winn-Dixie to improve kosher food sales.

“We use insights from Jamie’s audience to help clients identify the kosher population and ensure they have the right items on the shelves,” she said. “It’s as simple as making their own line of products kosher.”

Shapiro added that Kosher Network International has become a go-to kosher source.

“Jacksonville is up and coming in terms of culinary and to be the kosher part of that is exciting,” she said. “Kosher is about so much more then matzo and gefilte fish.”


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