Daily Israel Report

Keeping it Kosher on Master Chef

Arutz Sheva interviews Rabbi Josh Steele, a religiously observant UK immigrant on Master Chef - who is spreading a beautiful message.
By Yoni Kempinski, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/24/2014, 1:43 PM

The Israeli version of Master Chef has an unlikely contestant this season: Rabbi Josh Steele, an immigrant from the UK who keeps all of Judaism's dietary laws. 

Steele told Arutz Sheva that his participation in the reality show contest was a happy accident.

"I never applied for it," Steele explains. "My 14 year-old cousin wanted me to stay in Israel and not to move back to England, so she threw in an application form for me as a surprise." 

"I've been in yeshiva for 5 years, I've made nothing but cholent for 5 years," Rabbi Steele marvels. He thought "there was no way" he could get onto the show, but tried to think of the qualifying round as "an experience." 

Rabbi Steele identifies as an Orthodox Jew - and as an Orthodox Rabbi, being on a cooking show could be seen as a bold move. But the Rabbi explained that responses have been wildly positive.

"I had one security guard come up to me on the train and explain that he hated religion," he recounted, "because he thought he wouldn't able to be himself. Then he saw me on the show and said that he saw he could be religious and have fun in life." 

Rabbi Steele described some of the unique challenges of participating in a cooking show in general. "There's lots of non-kosher food - but I don't cook non-kosher and I don't eat non-kosher," he proudly proclaimed. "I kasher all of my keilim [make all of his dishes and utensils kosher], all of the ingredients I use are kosher, I do everything pareve [suitable for meat or dairy meals]."

While some recipes can be difficult to reproduce, e.g. French dishes, Rabbi Steele explained that his adherence to Jewish law only brings out his natural creativity - and helps him convey a message about the role of food in Jewish life. 

"If you cook amazing food, you'll say an amazing bracha [blessing] with amazing kavana [concentration] and be able to connect to hakadosh baruch hu [the Holy One, Blessed is He]," he enthused. "So that's what I'm trying to do, and hopefully I can succeed."