You might say Jeremy Schwartzberg grew up in food.
“Our family owned a food business,” said the senior chef at Rose Schnitzer Manor (pictured at right, with longtime cook Martin). “I grew up in the Catskills and Borsch Belt. All the hotels around us were kosher and we sold them all food. I’ve never walked in the front door of a kitchen; I was always in the back door.”
Jeremy is a lifelong New Yorker and talks like one, rapid-fire, short, and direct sentences. He’s lived in a number of states: Georgia, Nevada, and Florida, among others.
Four years ago, his best friend who’d moved to Portland suggested Jeremy try Oregon. Jeremy took a job at an insurance company, but before he could start working, he was asked to interview at Cedar Sinai Park.
“The executive chef and I met in the Lubliner private dining room, and Lubliner is my mother’s maiden name,” he said. “After the interview, I called my brother and asked, ‘Is this a sign?’ Mom had just died. He said I should take the chef job. So, I started working here and I’ve been here ever since.”
Jeremy attended the State University of New York (SUNY) Oneonta for a bachelor of arts in business administration and economics, and then went on to SUNY Sullivan County Community College for a culinary degree.
Fortunately, for Cedar Sinai Park, cooking kosher comes naturally to Jeremy. He does a great job explaining to new employees how kosher works and the need for separate dairy and meat kitchens, along with which animals can be consumed and when and how kitchen items can be shared and how to determine whether a product is kosher certified.
“I actually grew up non-kosher,” he said. “I ate bacon at home. But we didn’t have milk on our table at dinner at home, and we never served meat and dairy together.”
Jeremy said he orders all of Rose Schnitzer Manor’s kosher food from Seattle, and the kosher meats are from South America.
“I didn’t know they had rabbis slaughtering and blessing our food, but all our meat comes from Paraguay,” he said, chuckling.
“Kosher is a better quality of meat,” said Jeremy. “The cuts are better. The animals are humanely slaughtered to remove all of the fat and nerves and as much blood as possible, so there’s really not too much bacteria left, and it’s good quality. It feels a little healthier and richer.”
What is the most popular meal? “Anything with chicken or meat,” he said. “Friday night Shabbats here are the best.
“We serve tons of fish. Fish must have fins and scales, so no shellfish. We often serve salmon, or sole, red snapper, or halibut.”
A typical day has Jeremy putting away the produce that’s been delivered, and he has to place all the food orders by 10 a.m.
“US Foods, Sysco, Pacific Seafood, Alpenrose,” he recited. “I order produce every day. The two big boys, I get twice a week. I do my affordable kosher order for the upcoming week. It’s a week in advance. Then, on Wednesdays, I usually put away all the food and I usually prep all day or cook or whatever needs to be done. I do all the catering. I prep and cook on Sundays and Thursday.”
The kitchen is a very busy place, and the dining rooms are a main attraction for residents’ not just for food, but socially. So, Jeremy often pulls six-day weeks, with holidays like Passover even more time consuming, he said.
In his spare time, Jeremy plays golf. “My grandparents lived on a golf course in Florida, but I never golfed a day in my life until I moved out here. And now I play three days a week.
“This place is great. I like working here. I’m a mentor. I help everybody here; that’s who I am. It’s very family-oriented, and I feel like I’m hanging out with my grandparents.