Scotch Plains accountant Andrew Dorsch is a man of many talents. He sings and does woodwork, and, as he put it, takes care of his most important job: caring for his wife and their two daughters.
But right now, bragging rights come from his creativity in the kitchen.
Dorsch has been named as one of four finalists in the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off, whose judges selected his Torte Vegetali from thousands of entries from around the country. He will recreate the dish at the cooking contest finals at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan on March 28.
The first prize is $25,000, which includes Maytag kitchen appliances and cash. According to a company press release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proclaimed the date as “Man-O-Manischewitz Day.”
Each year, the Newark-based kosher food company challenges people to prepare “family-friendly” dishes using a number of its products. Entering a cooking contest for the first time in his life, Dorsch decided to adapt a dish approved by his colleagues, his family, and their golden retriever, Chester — “my chief taste tester,” he said.
Dorsch, in addition to being budget manager for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, does the bookkeeping for Congregation B’nai Israel in Basking Ridge, where he also teaches religious school. On Fridays, he often brings in a dish to share with six of his colleagues at CBI. “It’s cheaper than takeout,” he said.
Last year, the day before Yom Kippur, he treated them to Torte Vegetali, his rib-sticking vegetable pie.
“A couple of people commented that they didn’t get hungry all the next day,” he told NJ Jewish News. To perfect the recipe using the requisite number of Manischewitz products, Dorsch experimented in the large kitchen at CBI.
Dorsch and his family are members of Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah the Conservative congregation in Clark. His wife, Claudia, the fiscal officer with the Middlesex County Department of Labor and Workforce Development, serves as temple treasurer. Andrew sings in the choir and sometimes leads services there.
Claudia, according to her husband, has become a “frighteningly good” baker. “That’s an art form,” he said. “If you screw up, you have to throw the stuff out.”
He handles the meal preparation for the family. “Cooking is about chemistry; if it goes wrong, you can compensate,” he said.
He learned food preparation as a child, growing up in Fall River, Mass., and later here in New Jersey, in Fords in Middlesex County through his school years. “From when I was about five, my mother would say, ‘Here, help me.’” He was cooking on his own by 11. What makes him a good cook, he speculated, is his willingness to experiment, and “to play” with ingredients.
Dorsch will compete against three women and a fifth contestant to be selected through on-line voting. The contestants are listed at www.manischewitz.com.
The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a panel led by chef and TV host Claire Robinson, who was a finalist on the television program Top Chef and currently hosts Food Network Challenge.
Dorsch doesn’t seem all that concerned about winning. The news in January that he’d made it to the finals, he said, was reward enough.
It came as “a really nice bright spot in a very rough month,” he said. “And it gives me bragging rights — that I really am a pretty good cook.”
As if anyone around him had any doubts.