Having a conversation with Chaim William Silverberg is like having a conversation with Robin Williams — a fast-paced, engaging and entertaining experience. Just try to keep up.
Silverberg, 36, owns CWS Meats in Owings Mills, where he and his team craft and package smoked and cured kosher meats, including his signature lamb bacon, ribs, smoked Thanksgiving turkey, steaks and more. He offers his wares at sandwich pop-up shops at the Pikesville Farmers Market, other area locations and around Washington, D.C., with a rotating menu including burgers, sandwiches, fries, salad, falafel, lamb belly shawarma, sabich and kebabs.
But that is just a part of the kosher foodie empire Silverberg is building. With his popular and diverting web series, “Tripping Kosher,” produced by local filmmaker Tsvika Tal of Talvision, Silverberg and sidekick Judd Joffre of Judd’s Memphis Kitchen in New York visit kosher eateries around the country, sampling the menu and offering entertaining and enlightening banter to kosher-hungry viewers.
Kicking off last fall, “Tripping Kosher” has clocked about 60 short videos on its YouTube channel ranging from a Thai kosher joint in Beverly Hills and a Malibu fish shack to a bagel shop in Cincinnati, a pizza place in Teaneck, New Jersey, and perennial Pikesville favorites such as David Chu’s China Bistro, Kosher Bite and Milk & Honey Bistro.
“I grew up in the Midwest, where there wasn’t a lot of kosher options. Our whole feeling is there’s East Coast kosher, there’s West Coast kosher and then there’s flyover-country kosher, which is fairly limited,” Silverberg said. “All these little towns have that one place. And when you go to that one place, even if you’re 100 miles away, even if it’s just a hole in the wall, it’s a destination restaurant.”
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Silverberg admits to perhaps being “a bit of a hellion” at the multiple yeshivas he attended, but he eventually found the right woman, moved to Baltimore in 2006 and got married.
“She made me grow up,” he said. “At a certain point in my life I realized that my lifestyle was not conducive to moving up in life. I realized that within the religious framework … it was an important way of maintaining a certain codex of rules and laws that keep me committed and on a certain path in life. It keeps me in check.”
Silverberg was a special needs high school teacher at Kennedy Krieger, but 10 years ago he thought his talent for teaching and the new wave of streaming video content might prove a niche for him.
“I want to be the Alton Brown of kosher,” he said of the popular TV chef and author. “He was like a teacher. I was a teacher for eight years, that’s why our videos are so educational. Really, I just don’t want to work hard for a living.”
“Our whole feeling is there’s East Coast kosher, there’s West Coast kosher and then there’s flyover-country kosher, which is fairly limited,” — Chaim William Silverberg
But listen to Silverberg talk about the media empire he is building — producing a documentary series with leading kosher chefs, building an Amazon channel and meeting with corporate advertisers — and it’s obvious he is working hard promoting the kosher food he loves.
A typical trip with his two colleagues goes something like this:
“We all have other businesses to attend to, so when we do a trip we have to jam it in,” he said. “Three weeks ago we flew to Seattle, landed in Seattle at 10:30 in the morning, did four places in Seattle. Flew to Vegas, spent the next day in Vegas, we did six places in Vegas. Got on a plane, flew overnight and got to Minnesota at 7 o’clock in the morning. Then we filmed at a doughnut place, a kosher restaurant and a kosher crepe joint.”
Back in Baltimore, Silverberg said the kosher-keeping population has grown at least tenfold in the past 10 years.
“That’s a huge number. There’s communities coming in, there’s communities being built. It’s wonderful,” he said, adding that Baltimore’s Jewish culinary history traditionally has a Germanic influence. “For a long time people were very comfortable with what they got. What we have now is this influx in the past 10 years of people coming from around the country and around the world who have different food experiences and different tastes. We’ve seen a really nice uptick in people bringing in new things, or the old places updating a little bit.”
That includes a significant influence of Persian cuisine from the Sephardic community. Then there’s kosher sushi. And Silverberg loves it all.
Inspired by that diverse diaspora, the mission of “Tripping Kosher,” Silverberg says, is to bring high- quality television techniques to a positive, upbeat production that showcases kosher food for an audience for whom his type of content has not been available, as well as to anyone and everyone that loves good food — good kosher food.
“We’re just trying to show something entirely different,” he said.