If you’re looking for the same-old, same-old Shabbos fare of roasted chicken and heavy side dishes, you can steer clear of Herb ’n Spice in Livingston, which held its grand opening on Aug. 15.
With a focus on what owner Beth Indyk of West Orange calls “simple fresh ingredients,” she hopes to change how people think about kosher food.
“Potato kugel, kishkas, gefilte fish — people think that’s what kosher food is,” she said. “ I want to provide whole foods for the kosher consumer that will appeal to everyone because it’s wholesome and healthy.”
She favors fresh ingredients and stays away from anything canned or frozen, she said. “Instead of fried eggplant parmigiana, I’d do baked eggplant with roasted vegetables, basil, and thyme,” she suggested. “ Instead of pasta salad, I’d offer basmati rice with herbs and fresh squeezed lemon.”
Herb ’n Spice, which is under the kosher supervision of the Vaad of MetroWest, moved into its space on Livingston Avenue just off Mount Pleasant Avenue in March and technically opened just before Passover. Indyk waited until the operation was at full speed to have the grand opening.
Every day Herb ’n Spice offers a full salad bar, a selection of gourmet sandwiches, and two to three soups, as well as a lunch and dinner special, all for take-out only. The Shabbat takeout menu changes every week, and orders must be placed by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.
Indyk has been running Herb ’n Spice as a catering operation from a local synagogue for the last eight years. “It’s a town where there aren’t a whole lot of choices for the kosher consumer. I’m offering a more contemporary feel, where I can show that kosher food can be exciting, interesting, pretty, and flavorful,” she said.
Indyk comes from a kosher food family. Her mother opened Elaine’s Kosher Kitchen when they moved to West Orange when Beth was just a toddler. “She sold cheeses, meats — food you couldn’t get anywhere,” said Indyk. By the time she was 16, she was working with her mother, whose business had become the Gourmet Galaxy. Ultimately, they sold Gourmet Galaxy, and Indyk “retired” to raise her family. That was 10 years ago.
“The same people who used to shop in my mother’s garage store come to me and ask, Can you cook for Rosh Hashana?”
Part of the base of her business comes from her own congregation, West Orange’s Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David, where she has been a lifelong member, and where she and her husband are raising their three children.
Although she has no formal culinary training, she said, “I just have such a passion for this; I love reading cookbooks and trying different recipes. I love to put different foods together.” And she loves the Food Network. Her favorite chefs include Bobby Flay and Yotam Ottolenghi, the celebrity Israeli chef whose cookbook, Jerusalem, is a surprise bestseller.
Her long-term goals include creating a place where customers can eat, take cooking lessons, and purchase her own line of gourmet foods that would include healthy salad dressings and sauces, as well as pre-prepared meals people can cook at home.
For now, Indyk is focused on hard work, striving to “put out the best product I can.”