Opening my own restaurant has been my dream since I was a child, learning to cook with my grandmother, Adaire, and my mother, Arlene. As a teenager, I took over cooking Sabbath dinners; pot roasted brisket, and my mother’s challah. I knew I wanted to one day be a chef, but my grandmother wasn’t so sure whether I would stick to that aspiration, or become a business man like my father. Every time we would talk, she’d ask, “So, you still want to be a chef?” and I’d assure her that she would be the first to know if I ever changed my mind.
I started my professional career as a dishwasher and worked my way up. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to work with, and learn from, some of Tucson and San Francisco’s great chefs. I have been going to the San Francisco farmers markets every week, getting to know the amazing people growing our food. Throughout my time working in top restaurants, learning technique and foods from the Mediterranean to Asia, I kept coming back to the food of my family. I wanted to create a Jewish deli where I could share my family’s recipes, utilizing the technique I’ve learned and the fresh ingredients available to us in California. It would also give me the opportunity to explore even more traditions in Jewish cooking.
My restaurant is named Shorty Goldstein’s after my great grandmother Pauline. Her maiden name was Goldstein, but when my grandfather Osman first met her, her married name was Sholder. He joked that, at 4’10”, she barely came up to his shoulder. He asked her permission to call her Shorty and the nickname stuck.
There are many prized recipes in my family, most notably, Shorty’s potato knish. Shorty would come to visit Tucson for a month every year. She would pick one day, and make hundreds of knish. They would be put in my grandmother’s freezer, and rationed to the family throughout the year. We would wait eagerly by the kitchen, to make sure that we each got our share. When they came out of the oven, piping hot, my brothers and I would immediately shove one into our mouths, incurring burns, but ensuring the opportunity for a second knish. After Shorty was gone, my grandmother would only make them on special occasions. I loved them so much, I made sure she taught me how to make them.
I now make those beloved knish, as well as my mother’s challah, my grandmother’s kugel and many more recipes, for my guests at Shorty Goldstein’s. It is a privilege to do what I love every day and share a piece of my family’s history, while joining the movement to bring back the Jewish Deli and help to carry it into the future.