An Interview With Lisa Hicks Clark - Zaftigs Corporate Chef
Tucked in the heart of Brookline’s cool little Coolidge Corner neighborhood is Zaftigs Delicatessen – a restaurant that has been famously serving the hipsterish community since before the turn of the 21st century. They list themselves as a “non-Kosher” Jewish style restaurant, making their menu quite expansive – especially considering the fact that they serve breakfast all day (see the Banana-Stuffed French Toast below). Their Corporate Chef, Lisa Hicks Clark, recently answered some questions that I had about Zaftigs Delicatessen in an interview.
Tell me a little bit about the history of Zaftigs:
The Brookline location will be 16 years old this summer. It was opened by Robert Shuman in the year 5757 - which represents the Jewish calendar year 1997. He wanted to open a place that had Jewish cuisine that wasn’t solely kosher, serving upscale Jewish food. From the classic chicken soup the banana stuffed French toast, I feel as if we could be open 24 hours a day with all the tourists and students around here.
Could you explain why Zaftigs is considered to be a “new” Jewish style restaurant?
The lifestyle is different for the younger generation, especially with changing cuisines. On the big holidays, it’s special to us that people can still come here and get a hot corned beef sandwich or a custom omelette at 8:00PM. That sort of stuff appeals to a lot more people outside of the Jewish neighborhood. We actually have customers from all over the world that come in – whether it’s from the Head of the Charles or a family with a child graduating from Boston University. We don’t cater to one cuisine – we cater to several. Eastern European, Jewish, American – we branch out to the entire community, and not just one specific group.
On a Friday night and a Sunday morning, respectively, what dishes is the restaurant most likely to prepare more often than any other?
On a Sunday morning, there are 3 items – the Empire Eggs (our twist on Eggs Benedict), the Banana Stuffed French Toast, and the Rough Rider (a cheese omelette filled with hash) – a new item that has become very popular. We just rolled out a new menu a few months ago, and the Rough Rider has become very popular!
For a Friday night, because we do breakfast all day, it’s a lot harder to pinpoint. During the night, we definitely do a lot of burgers – we have 3 new burger options on the menu and I think our burgers are a secret. People come in and don’t realize how great our coffee is and how great our burgers are – those are our two best secrets.
What is the restaurant doing to stay on the cutting edge of today's ever-changing food trends?
I go to food shows, and that’s where you see all the big trends. Eight years ago, EVERYTHING was fried, then there was a low-carb crave. A lot of our people right now, for whatever reason, love sweet potato fries. I remember eating them 15 years ago and they’ve just now become popular. We try to offer everything, and if it sells, it works its way onto the menu. However, not every food trend works for every restaurant. You have to consider the demographics. Food is a lot more accessible these days, between the Internet and TV shows people are talking about it more and more. People are also a lot more acceptable when eating food nowadays then they were before. We do fresh strawberries year round – but we can’t get them in the US in December. If we lived in California, we be able to all the time. We like the idea of the fact that a lot of restaurants are able to grow their own produce. We certainly work with a lot of local companies. We try to get as local as we can.
If you had to eat one dish from Zaftigs three times a day every day for one year straight, what would you choose?
Cheese Blintzes - definitely. Those are super yummy.
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