Posted July 11, 2023 in Articles
Author: MEGHAN WALSH
Pearl’s Place at Menorah Park in Beachwood has received a taste makeover throughout the past eight months.
Chef Michael Kinsley took over the restaurant’s kitchen in November and has been hard at work whipping up new dishes and improving old favorites. The kitchen at Pearl’s Place is a dairy kitchen, so Kinsley has gotten creative in incorporating meat and shellfish substitutes into his recipes, he told the Cleveland Jewish News.
“It’s all kosher, so it’s a dairy kitchen, meaning I can’t have any meat products; I can have fish,” he explained. “Anything that’s ‘meat’ product is vegan.”
Kinsley has explored a lot of MorningStar Farms’ plant-based “meats” and has incorporated them into recipes such as chili and barbecue burgers, he said. Shrimp tacos, made with imitation crab molded into the shape of a prawn, are another favorite among diners, he added.
While some diners are hesitant to try plant-based products, Kinsley encourages them on the promise that, if they don’t like it, he will make them something else.
“I won’t serve it if I won’t eat it,” he said.
Prior to becoming the chef at Pearl’s Place, Kinsley worked for six years as a chef at Stone Gardens, Menorah Park’s assisted living facility. He has worked “all over” the food industry and “quality of life” was the primary factor in his return to cooking in healthcare facilities, he said. His hours at Pearl’s Place allow him to spend more time with his children.
Kinsley considers his job as “research” – continuously trying new things to comply with the requirements for a kosher kitchen. As a non-Jewish person, he joked that he wants to write a cookbook called “The Italian’s Guide to Kosher Cooking.”
“I’ve learned so many things about the culture,” he said. “It’s not just what goes in the food, it’s when you can serve it and how you can serve it and what holidays constitute (what foods). There’s so many holidays where you have specific things that you’re allowed to have and not have.”
When Kinsley needs consulting on something he doesn’t know, he enlists the help of the mashgiach, a team of people who help make sure his cooking stays in line with kosher requirements.
“I learned down there (at Stone Gardens) and here,” he said. “I rely on them. I mean, I have a list of kosher symbols that are accepted, but they’re my go-to. So when there’s something I don’t know if I can use it or if it’s accepted, I call them and they come up or I will shoot them a picture.”
Most of the people who work in the kitchen with Kinsley are volunteers, and they have become “family” to him, he said. When he took over as chef, he was pleasantly surprised by how hard the volunteers work and how they genuinely enjoy helping people.
Growing up in an Italian family, Kinsley spent Sunday dinners at his grandma’s house, where the women would cook upstairs while the men would play poker downstairs, and then they would gather to eat together, he reminisced. He said today’s younger generations do not prioritize family time as much, so working at Pearl’s Place has given him back a sliver of that family atmosphere at mealtimes.
“If I can have people sit down and be happy and eat and enjoy food with their friends, their family, with myself, so be it,” Kinsley said.