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The Humble Toast, a Modern Deli & Burger Bistro, to Open October 22

Shalom Yehudiel could have stayed in California in his position as the executive chef at Catal and Uva Bar & Cafe in Disneyland. He also could have accepted an offer to oversee the VIP suites at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Instead, he chose to come back to his kosher roots and open The Humble Toast at 1383 Queen Anne Road.

The Humble Toast reflects Yehudiel’s 10 years as a chef, executive chef and consultant in the food industry. The most important principle he learned? “It doesn’t matter what the cuisine is; the key is to put love, passion and dedication into the food, regardless of whether it is fine or casual dining, and execute it properly,” he said. Yehudiel researched the Teaneck restaurant market to determine what was missing. “I felt that Teaneck needed a good, modern, fleishig restaurant to bring in guests who want quality at an affordable price.”

That’s The Humble Toast. Everything is homemade including the pastrami and corned beef. Yehudiel also grinds his own beef for the burgers. The Humble Toast will have burgers, sandwiches, salads, fish and sides, with “thought and detail in every dish.”

The sandwiches will be updated classics, several named for friends and family. The Jerry, named for his wife’s grandfather, will be a reuben on grilled rye bread with pastrami, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut and an optional fried egg. Jerry’s twin brother of blessed memory has a sandwich named for him as well. The Shelly is a club with smoked turkey, beef bakon and lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Salads will include choices like tabbouleh with grilled chicken and Asian chicken salad with fried wonton strips, green onion and sesame soy vinaigrette. Veggie and fish options will include Yehudiel’s own veggie burger, the Hertzl Street Special (homemade shakshuka on a crispy baguette), and a blackened grouper sandwich. Add a side of garlic truffle fries or a smashed roasted yam with aioli.

To start? Try Queen Anne Fries (crisped pastrami ends, beef bakon, pickled garlic and Humble sauce), Caribbean ceviche, sticky teriyaki wings or Shishito peppers.

Order lunch, served 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., at the counter and it will be brought to your table. Dinner is served from 5 – 10 p.m. with complete waiter service. There will be extended hours on Thursday and Motzei Shabbat during winter.

Dinner choices will include more serious food that Yehudiel deems: “Earth, Wind, Sea and Fire.” Earth will be represented by mushroom pappardelle pasta. For wind, Yehudiel will have a poultry dish such as the classic chicken & waffles. You can smell the sea breeze with cioppino, an Italian fish stew. And he is firing up the grill for juicy steaks. BYOB to complement your meal.

Yehudiel’s attention to detail is present in every aspect of the décor as well as the food. Gleaming white tiles line the walls. The planked wood flooring has black tile in the center, and is topped with black lacquer tables throughout the room. A copper range hood centered behind the spacious counter provides a gleaming focal point. The stylish pendant lights placed over the counter make the room glow.

“I want people to come in and enjoy being in a hip, modern kosher restaurant right here in Teaneck,” he said. “Everybody is a foodie, a critic, and they have the right to be. There are a lot of options in the kosher world today. We owe it to ourselves to strive for better than the ‘same old.’ I want to bring the high standards I learned at places like Fox Restaurant Concepts and The Biltmore to kosher restaurants. We should have the same memorable guest experience.”

Yehudiel was born in Israel in 1982 and moved to New Jersey with his parents in 1989. He was educated in area day schools, although his parents at that time were not observant. As a young adult he drifted from yiddishkeit and began a career as a loan officer for Commerce Bank. At 21, he was opening branches and handling million dollar accounts, but he was hungry for something more fulfilling. Coming from a large extended Sephardic family, where food had always had a starring role, he enrolled in an online culinary program through The Art Institute of Phoenix. After completing the basics, he moved to Arizona at 25 to master the hands on cooking classes in the program. At a volunteer charity event for an NBA All-Star game, students were paired with different chefs from the area. Yehudiel worked with Aaron May, a noted chef who liked his style and offered him a job. Over the next few years he worked in several places, moving up the ranks and enhancing his skills.

Working for a group called Fox Restaurant Concepts taught him the business side of the industry. He learned about standards, food costs, quality control and profitability. One of their restaurants was called The Arrogant Butcher. “It was one of the coolest places I worked at but arrogance is the opposite of my values,” Yehudiel noted. “So when I was thinking of a name for my restaurant, I thought of the opposite concept, the importance of humility, and came up with The Humble Toast. Toast can be a basic staple, and a toast can also be a l’chaim, a way to celebrate life.”

Yehudiel became a sous chef at a Patina Group restaurant in downtown Disneyland, Anaheim California, ultimately becoming an executive chef at another, Catal and Uva Bar & Cafe, running his own show where he was responsible for overseeing an operation bringing in $10-$12 million a year in revenue. He lived in Huntington Beach and life was good. But still, something was missing. He had been coming home every six months to visit and decided the time had come to return permanently.

He stayed with his father, who had been religious for the past 15 years. His mother had moved back to Israel. Initially, he kept Shabbat out of respect for his father, but quickly realized he wanted to keep Shabbat for himself. “My neshama said I miss this—Shabbat, family—more than just career satisfaction. I missed spiritual satisfaction, coming from the heart.”

That feeling was tested when he got an offer through one of his Disney connections to be the chef overseeing the 22 VIP suites at Madison Square Garden. It was a dream job—good pay and nice benefits. But it also meant working on weekends. On Shabbat. “For the first time in my life, I declined the job, and decided to focus on what’s really important to me,” he said.

He connected with people in Teaneck’s kosher restaurants and then became an independent restaurant consultant; now with three clients in Monsey. “I go into a restaurant that isn’t profitable and use my experience to turn it upside down, shake it up and rebuild it,” he said. “I train the staff, revamp the menu, make sure the labor and food costs are right and improve the overall guest experience. When a person is greeted at the door with a warm smile, it can make a difference between having a good experience and an unforgettable one. I use myself as a guide; how I would like to be treated.”

One day, walking on Queen Anne Road, he passed the empty spot once held by Gotham Burger. It was a fantastic location he thought, and there’s a real niche to fill here. Meanwhile, he had met an amazing woman he wanted to marry. “She asked me if I was sure I wanted to get married and open a new restaurant within a month,” he recalled. “This is the time, I told her. I’m doing it for you and our future kids.”

And so Yehudiel has come home, and found what he was missing. “A chef I know once asked me who I was cooking for. He said he cooks for his wife and kids; that’s his drive,” Yehudiel said. “My whole life I cooked for myself. Now I am cooking for my wife and my future family, b’ezrat Hashem.”

The Humble Toast, certified kosher by the RCBC, is located at 1386 Queen Anne Road in Teaneck. Call 646-267-5348 or email [email protected]. Order online at https://www.thehumbletoast.com/

By Bracha Schwartz

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