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Eitan Bernath has been cooking foods from around the world for over a decade, and he's only 20.
The food blogger and content creator, most widely known for his TikTok videos about food, started his cooking journey at just 9 years old. At age 11, Bernath was one of the first kids to compete on the Food Network show Chopped, an experience he attributes to applying on a whim over a holiday break from school.
"I just applied," he tells Yahoo Life. "There was a 50-question questionnaire about your cooking experience. We submitted it and were like, 'Alright, that was a fun little activity.'"
"Then there were phone interviews and in-person interviews and then I was eventually cast," says Bernath, who did not win the overall competition that season. "Growing up, Food Network was what inspired me to start cooking — it was what I always loved and so to be on it myself was really surreal."
After the show ended, Bernath had the confidence to treat his hobby and passion as a real career path. He began traveling the country giving cooking demonstrations, and at just 12 years old, launched his food blog and began creating content online.
But beginning a public career in middle school can be difficult: Bernath recalls some nerves about what other people would think, but says his love for food and entertaining people kept him going. A fellow chef also gave him the inspiration to feel confident in following his dreams.
"Guy Fieri I would say was my biggest inspiration," Bernath says. "Growing up, most people would hear that I liked cooking and the response was 'cooking is for girls' … hearing those things as a kid is not fun before you really build up your self-confidence."
"Guy was really the person who inspired me to cook because I loved watching him cook and because he was who really inspired me to own it," he adds. "He really built up that confidence that I needed to start my career at such a young age."
Armed with confidence and a sense of apathy towards the negative opinions of others, Bernath has grown to over 2.2 million followers on TikTok alone. He even recently cooked his favorite cuisine, Indian, for Bill Gates on YouTube.
"I eat Indian food I would say everyday," he says. "People hear that and think it's hyperbole, but whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, I eat it once a day. If I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life it would be Indian food."
Although he has a strong affinity for Indian cuisine, Bernath has an appreciation for exploring all cultures through food, which inspired his latest project, his cookbook Eitan Eats The World: New Comfort Classics to Cook Right Now, which he describes as the culmination of his culinary journey thus far.
"I've now been cooking for a little over a decade and Eitan Eats The World tells that story," he says. Also worth noting on his food storytelling resume: Bernath has appeared on an episode of Guy's Grocery Games, cooked alongside Daphne Oz on TikTok and serves as the principal culinary contributor for The Drew Barrymore Show.
The new author says the book follows his experiences growing up with food — from picky eater to an adventurous palate and everything in between. "As I look back on my life, all of the important and memorable occasions were all things surrounding food," he says. "Whether that's the recipe in the book for my grandpa's chicken soup or my dad's matzo balls — for me, there's no greater sense of nostalgia than the taste and the smell."
In March 2020, Bernath's beloved grandfather passed away from coronavirus abruptly, right before the Passover holiday, a Jewish holiday filled with tradition, family and food.
"It was very hard because all of the traditions involved him," Bernath recalls. "It was a very hard seder to get through. We were crying most of the time but when we got up to the meal and ate the chicken soup together, it was, in a strange way, kind of comforting because it was very much a memory of him."
Bernath recalls how difficult that first year was after his loss, reflecting on how that same chicken soup has been a tool for healing each year. "I think at this last Passover, we were all in a much better place with grief and so we were able to eat it this holiday and instead of being so sad, we were grateful for the memories with him."
"So the chicken soup recipe is probably the most important [recipe in the cookbook] to me," he adds.
In fact, Bernath dedicated the project to his grandfather. Opposite the dedication is a photo of the chicken soup — a perfect comfort food.
"I really describe Eitan Eats The World as comfort food from around the world," he says. "Those recipes that you go to for comfort that you have fun cooking and eating and sharing with the people you love."
The creator shares that in all of his content, from digital to hardcover, his goal is to get people excited about cooking. He does that by continually sharing food that excites him.
While his grandfather's chicken soup recipe is important recipe to Bernath, he shares that lately, a whole array of the traditional Jewish recipes he grew up on have been his favorites to share. Still, when he got his start, these were the recipes Bernath shared the least.
"I didn't cook a lot of traditional Jewish recipes because part of what interested me was eating food that was different from what I was eating regularly," he says. "As I've gotten older and I live on my own, I've realized that it's such a fun story to share with my followers: The overall majority of my followers aren't Jewish. I realized I can teach my fans about the culture I grew up with."
"I've really enjoyed teaching people about these recipes and the traditions behind them," he adds. "One of the things I love about food is how much you can learn about other cultures."
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