| 20 Questions for 20 Years |

20 Questions for… Chanie Nayman

For 13 years, CHANIE NAYMAN has edited Family Table

For 13 years, CHANIE NAYMAN has edited Family Table, developing it from a few pages of recipes into a robust section with a life of its own. In 2017, Family Table production moved over from Mishpacha’s Israeli offices to its American base, and Chanie now leads a large team of recipe contributors, stylists, chefs, and columnists


My ideal work environment

I never get as much work done anywhere else as I do on an airplane. I write, I respond to emails, I clear out all my texts, I search for inspiration for new recipe ideas. All this on a one-and-a-half-hour flight. Otherwise, I’m in my office with all tabs closed but the one I need, with my phone on silent.

Deadlines are…

a necessary evil for a creative!

I learned the most from writing about

My role is not so much about writing as it is the coordination of ideas and recipes. I’ve learned the most from my interactions with the many people I’ve worked and collaborated with.

The accomplishment I’m proudest of

Launching Kosher.com with Leah Gottheim and Michal Frischman seven and a half years ago. It’s become such a household staple.

The best piece of advice I got

“Do what you have to do, then do what you want to do.” My mother ingrained this in me as I was growing up, and I think about it all the time (and tell it to my kids, too!).


How did you get started?

I was trained in graphic and web design, and found out about a job opening for graphics at Mishpacha. When I got to my interview, I was told the graphics vacancy had just been filled but there were two other job openings I could interview for. I took one of them, which actually had nothing to do with food, but about a month or two into my job, Nomee Shaingarten started casually asking for my opinion on some food layouts she was working on. A few weeks later, she offered me the position of food editor.


Do you love cooking?

Yes! But 99 percent of my job is not actually cooking.


How accurately can you predict which recipes or food trends will take off with the Mishpacha readership?

Easy! You can do this with me.

Pastrami and beef fry in a main, salad, side dish or appetizer? Check.

Easy, one-bowl, no-mixer desserts? Check.

Any twist on schnitzel or grilled chicken? Check.

In short, readers want recipes high on flavor, low on effort; for Shabbos and Yom Tov, things that present nicely, too.


Do most readers want basic “help me get supper on the table” or trendy gourmet offerings? How do you keep everyone happy?

“Help me get supper on the table,” again and again and again. Only a small percentage of our audience likes the trendy gourmet offerings, and they are usually looking at other sources for recipe ideas.


How do you balance presenting exquisite tablescapes and pushing the bar on new recipe ideas with not wanting to promote extravagance and raise standards in the frum community to the next level?

This is a challenge I think about daily in some way or another. There are certain ideas and images that readers are looking for and expecting to see in the magazine at each time of year. I get more requests, by far (!), from freelancers who are looking to create tablescapes than for any other kind of recipe or food writing work; another indication of how popular this trend has become.

The unifying factor that connects Mishpacha readers is our Yiddishkeit and connection to a Torahdig life. It’s not our personal hobbies, financial bracket, social status, or neighborhood culture and expectations. And while food is ostensibly a universal connector, it can pose a particular challenge and potential divisiveness when we’re dealing with such a large range of backgrounds. We try our best to provide something for everyone, and always work in coordination with our rabbinical board.


What’s your honest version of a no-effort meal?

The things I actually make my kids for supper. Think things like vegetable soup, chicken, and rice; meatballs and spaghetti and broccoli on the side; schnitzel, couscous, and Israeli salad….


Do you ever feel you hate your job?

Hate? Never. I love my job. Though as editor, my least favorite part is having to tell someone that work they did isn’t going to work for us, especially when I know they put a lot of effort into it. It’s even worse if it’s a project that the contributor is really excited about.

Another challenge is the summers (especially August), which is typically our busiest pre-Yom Tov season. I have to work while my kids are up late or want to go on vacation, and the rest of the mothers all seem to be off or on the school schedule.


If you were to switch careers, what would you become?

Since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a party planner, but the hours are just not for me at this stage in my life!


Which recipe has Mishpacha gotten the most requests for?

It rotates every four to five years or so.  Esther Ottensoser had a tic-tac-toe salad plate for a simchah appetizer that was super popular for a long time. We had a beef fry and pastrami doughless knish recipe we ran before Succos one year that got many requests for a few years. Then there was the Coffee Cake Grande by Brynie Greisman. More recently, there was a Frutopia dessert by Chavi Feldman. Some of the basics are also very heavily requested, like Miriam Pascal’s kishke recipe, for example. And every year at Shavuos time, we get lots of requests for any of Rivky Kleiman’s famous cheesecakes.


What are the best side benefits of your job?

I do get a bunch of free things each year, like new food products and cookbooks, and corporate gifts Yom Tov time, which is definitely fun for my kids! I’ve actually wondered many times if I should have used a pen name from the beginning, but while there’s no turning back now, I think my kids enjoy and benefit from the attention they get from their teachers, friends’ mothers (or fathers!), and anyone who reads the magazine.


What was your most discerning compliment from a reader?

I appreciate it when people notice that we’ve toned things down since the war in Eretz Yisrael started. I also appreciate when people pick up on the nuances and context I talk about in my letters about the pressures we feel from society to put out fancy foods and spreads and set elegant tables.


What’ s the worst recipe error went to print in Family Table?

About 12 years ago, we decided to put a label on the recipes in the weeks leading up to Pesach stating that they should be clipped and saved because they were kosher for Pesach. Well, we accidentally included a recipe for string beans, which are considered kitniyos! Then there was another Pesach disaster a different year when our column This Way/That Way featured a reprint of a recipe that had flour in it.


Which one kosher ingredient are you most grateful for?

Soy sauce.


Who is the longest running contributor to Family Table?

Brynie Greisman! And Esther Ottensoser, Faigy Grossman, and Chavi Feldman are the only other contributors who predate me (by a year or two).


Which component of Family Table do you find the most challenging to compile?

The table of contents page, hands down. I do not enjoy writing at all! I procrastinate doing it as much as possible.


Which old Family Table column do you miss?

Tastes Like Shabbos was near and dear to me. The column was the result of a meeting several editors had with Rav Elya Brudny, where the Rosh Yeshivah spoke about the importance of children growing up with excitement that Shabbos is coming, along with the aroma of Shabbos foods being prepared Thursday evening. Inspired, I decided to interview daughters of well-known rebbetzins and special women to hear what they did to make Shabbos exciting in their homes. But after the third or fourth column was pulled by a family member just as it was about to go to print, we put it on the back burner for now. I’d love to bring it back to life one day.


What do people assume about you based on your job?

Everyone assumes I’m a bubby. I’m not sure why, because I always talk about my little kids! Actually, when I first started, I was worried that it would sound too odd that I was the editor of a food section and still going to my parents and in-laws for every Yom Tov. It wouldn’t have looked good that I wasn’t rolling up my sleeves and making Pesach along with the rest of the world! So I kept things neutral, but also never said anything about hosting or my stage of life, so I don’t know where this assumption comes from!


How do you balance the creative sides of the job with the technical sides of the job?

We have the most amazing production team managed by Esti Vago, who is the most organized, responsible, and efficient person I know, while at the same time she’s understanding, flexible, and creative herself. That combination of personality traits is like finding a needle in a haystack.

And I schedule time for brainstorming into my day just like everything else.


What goes on behind the scenes of those stunning photo shoots? We want to hear all about it!

After the recipe contributor submits her assignment, it gets passed on to the prep cook. The stylist, prep cook, and I review all the recipes together and discuss how we want each item cooked and the quantities we plan to display. I discuss the lighting, mood, and style I’m going for with the stylist. Together, we search for props and backgrounds, and inspo pics to base our concept on.

At that point, we’re already planning the camera angle, because it very much affects the kind of platters or other props we plan on using. After it’s all gathered, we review which props we will use for each dish and lay them out the day before the shoot. We usually shoot 12 recipes in a day.


Do you ever get takeout, and what do you go for?

I looove takeout. Not for the convenience as much as for the fun. I love the strong flavors and deep-fried foods, which I never make at home. My personal favorite is Chinese.


Questions for 20 Years

Coming up:

Rachel Ginsberg, Associate Editor

Menachem Weinreb, Art Director

The Kichels Team

Refoel Pride, Chief Copyeditor

Send your questions to 20years@mishpacha.com



(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1013)

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