You Should Know… Jenny Katz

ysk

Jenny Katz (Provided)

Jenny Katz, 29, is a Charm City transplant. She spent the first decade of her life in Gezer, a kibbutz in Israel, before her family moved just outside Princeton, N.J.

After a brief stint at Skidmore College and year off (including a semester at Hebrew University, where she interned with the giraffes at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem), Katz finished up at Rutgers University, majoring in animal science with a focus on dairy goats.

Her career as a dairy goat farmer in New Jersey was, however, short-lived. Deciding one night that the dairy goat life was no longer for her, Katz’s boss put all of her 40 pregnant goats up on Craigslist. A South Jersey farmer arrived with a trailer within the hour, and Katz was out of a job.

But all’s well that ends well. She moved to Baltimore at the urging of her then-boyfriend and now works as the head of the community lot team and volunteer coordinator at Baltimore nonprofit Civic Works.

Not many young people go into animal science. What about that interested you? Why dairy goats?
I think at the time I kind of looked down on any office jobs and just thought working with my hands was the only way. The reason for dairy goats was because in school — Rutgers was a research school — we had this herd of 40 wethers. Do you know what that is?

No …
Wethers are castrated male goats. And, apparently, when you castrate a goat young, they get really sweet, very large and very soft. So you walk into this pen with 40 wethers and they just swarm you for cuddles.

And I just loved making cheese, and I loved farms and the community. I just felt like I was fulfilling something without realizing it. Life on the kibbutz, we had all these animals, and it was a very agrarian lifestyle. And I think I was missing that in New Jersey.

And so when this job [at Civic Works] came along, it just felt like when the world hands you something like, “Hey, you should do this.” And you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know,” but really you do know. It was like that. It just brings me a lot of joy.

You’ve also done fellowships with Jews United for Justice and the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies. It seems like there’s this through-line in your life of both the world as a whole, in justice-related goals, and world as literal earth, dirt.
Oh yeah, I didn’t think of that. There’s some saying of a tree, with the roots in the ground, the branches in the heavens and trunk in the here and now. Like, be in all three places at once, as much as you can. And that’s always resonated with me.

I think that the Jewish groups I have been involved with are not just Jewish. They have a Jewish lens, but their focus is to help others. A pivotal part of my Jewish identity is how can we be allies and supporters and collaborators to other groups that are suffering too.

How has growing up in Israel informed your life here?
Obviously it’s informed me in a literal way in wanting to connect to the land. I mean, I didn’t wear shoes for like the first 10 years of my life, and there’s always part of me that craves that connection and strong sense of community.

But also, I think, coming to the states as a little Israeli kid with a weak grasp of English and being thrust into Hebrew school — there’s a culture in American Jewry and I never quite felt like I belonged in it. And I think that helps me to find compassion for people who are not like-minded.

Do you have any big projects coming up at Civic Works?
We’re doing a big project at 21st 1/2 Street in Barclay. This site in particular is a pretty rough space. A few of the residents there adopted it with help from Civic Works and Strong City Baltimore and in partnership with The Park School.

It’s been just a great practice in collaboration and that’s like my favorite part of my job. So, on April 4, we’re having Park School out there, and we’re getting shovels in the ground.

What do you like to do when you’re not civic working?
I’m a member of two boards: Friends of Stony Run and the City Forestry Board. I live right on Stony Run. I bought a house in the spring, and it backs up to the stream, which, to me, is one of the city’s greatest assets. I’d say that’s one of my biggest hobbies. I like to make beautiful spaces. The city is just ripe for beautification and greening. And I love it.

hmonicken@midatlanticmedia.com

Go Paleo! or Go Home

Cara Zaller shows off the completed Go Paleo! board game. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Cara Zaller shows off the completed Go Paleo! board game. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Cara Zaller, a Howard County nutritionist, saw a five-year dream come to fruition with the final production of her board game, Go Paleo! The educational and active game, based on the Paleolithic diet, challenges players to differentiate between health foods and junk, encourages exercise and teaches about the benefits of living a Paleolithic lifestyle.

The diet is based on what those living in the Paleolithic period of the early Stone Age would have eaten. As it was a time before processed foods, the diet eliminates dairy, grains, legumes and most sugars opting for natural foods instead.

“It’s not even about what it eliminates, it’s more about what it does include,” said Zaller. “Paleo is more about getting back to nature — you have to have grown it or killed it. All sources of animal protein, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s not just about a diet either, it’s a lifestyle.”

With an M.B.A. in finance and a bachelor’s in math from Emory University, Zaller did not originally aim to be in the field of nutrition. However, as a fitness instructor, many of her students would inquire about her diet, so she decided to get certified as a nutritionist. Even that was not enough — in the time since, Zaller has opened her own nutrition practice and is currently enrolled in the nutrition and integrative health master’s program at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

Zaller first heard about the paleo diet from a chiropractor, with whom she was giving a joint lecture, who gave her a book about the paleo diet for athletes.

“I read it and was like, ‘Wow, this is totally different than what is taught in conventional nutrition,’ and from that point on, I decided to eat a paleo-style diet,” said Zaller.

Inspiration for the Go Paleo! board game came one night when she was cooking dinner for her children.

“My kids were running around and my older one was saying, ‘Let’s play a tag game, I’m going be vegetables because they will give you power. You guys will be junk food.’ Listening to him speak, I thought that it was an excellent idea for a board game. We could teach how fruits and vegetables and wholesome foods give the body energy and junk foods drain you of energy, so therefore the fruits and vegetables and natural foods will always win,” said Zaller.

The process of creating a board game from scratch was far more arduous than Zaller and her family anticipated. Their first step was to design the game on paper — her eldest son drew it out, and they used printed images they found online. From there, Zaller began to communicate with Parvez Mangalorewala, the co-owner of Wordsmith Enterprises, who agreed to work with Zaller to produce the game. She sent him their handmade copy, and from there, it was a matter of going back and forth to make sure everything was done correctly.

“The whole idea is like Chutes and Ladders with the slides,” explained Zach, Zaller’s oldest son. “Landing on something bad and making you go back and do an activity card, that was my idea. It’s pretty cool, the game is just as I imagined it to be. I never thought we would make it this far.”

“When we started, it was May 2012,” said Zaller. “We thought that by the end of summer, we would have this game out, but it was just one thing after another.”

Go Paleo! was finally completed two months ago. They had to search databases to see if there was anything remotely like it, trademark the name — copyrights, trademarks and patents all required lawyers. Additionally, communicating overseas to approve every aspect of the game drew the process out.

“The whole journey entailed a lot in terms of layouts, imagery, content and fleshing out the whole game,” said Mangalorewala. “It took about three years to give shape to the final version. Although we did create two prototypes, small things like the wooden dice with food icons instead of dots happened spontaneously during the last stage. However, the entire game play and process was well thought out by Cara beforehand, so it was easier and more interesting to develop the board game into a fine piece.”

The back of the game provides a wealth of information regarding the paleo diet, while the instruction manual itself details the rules of the game, tells Zaller’s story and provides resources that go more in depth about the paleo lifestyle. The game board is also durable. Zaller wanted the board and pieces to be able to survive the active playstyle the game requires.

Initial interest for the board game came from Zaller’s neighbor, Sherry Chen, who is a member of a local board-game meeting group. According to Zaller, she first played the game and when she landed on pasta, she said, “I didn’t know pasta isn’t a health food!”

“Now when I go shopping, I think about Go Paleo! and choose my groceries based on the paleo diet,” said Chen. “I would strongly recommend the game to the community because it is very hard to find a game with the same educational and fitness value. Our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”

Now that Go Paleo! is finally ready for the public, Zaller’s immediate goal is distribution. David’s Natural Market, which has stores in Columbia, Forest Hill and Gambrills, is carrying the game. Many of Zaller’s friends and students from fitness classes have picked up copies of the game as well. Zaller is also looking forward to the game being reviewed in a paleo magazine.

“My next steps are not just the paleo world,” she said. “I am interested in kids’ nutrition, so I have been contacting the different Howard County schools to see about getting one of these games in every elementary school for their health unit where they teach nutrition. What better way to teach than with fun?”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

You Should Know… Randy Harris

ysk

(Provided)

“Ragin” Randy Harris has always been passionate about music. And while his 9-to-5 days are spent in the banking industry, he has turned his love of music into a serious side hustle.

The 29-year-old Memphis, Tenn., native had a lot of plans before finding his niche. He was given the moniker — for which his entertainment business is named — while an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Wisconsin. However, he quickly decided that engineering was not his path and ended up earning a degree in music business and communications from the University of Memphis.

“My initial plan was to go to law school and become an entertainment attorney,” said Harris. “I wanted to help artists make sure they were getting fair contracts. I was accepted to the University of Memphis’ law school, but I had a full-time job working with my dad in finance. I ended up getting married instead.”

Harris cites the change of plans as “the best choice of my life,” and he has been happily married to wife Lydia for three years.

Since moving to Baltimore in June 2015, Harris has kept a full-time job in finance at an M&T Bank in Timonium. However, he also maintains his own business, Ragin’ Randy Entertainment, which recently partnered with Heady Entertainment. Together, they provide management, promotion, photography and journalism to the music scene of the mid-Atlantic region.

How did you become so involved with music?

I have been a music lover my whole life, my dad too — it runs in the family. I grew up in Memphis, which is a music town. When I was in seventh grade, I took band as a fine arts class. I picked percussion and played that until my junior year, then dropped it to play guitar in the jazz band. I bought my first guitar with bar mitzvah money, and I ended up being chosen as the first-chair guitarist in the All-West Tennessee Jazz Blues Band my senior year.

I majored in music business and communications because the University of Memphis didn’t have a broadcasting degree at the time. I was a DJ on the university’s all-jazz radio station, which is one of the only all-jazz stations in the country.

I decided to start sending concert music reviews to random publications that I followed to see if I could get them to pick me up. At this point, I was just writing reviews of shows that I was going to for fun. I wasn’t extremely hopeful. Then I got a response from Grateful Music. One of the main guys for the site lived in Memphis as well, so they picked me up. My first review was of a local band, Agori Tribe, that, funny enough, I now manage.

How did you transition to management?

I was absolutely mind-blown [by Agori Tribe] because they are all instrumental, which I love, and very progressive. I covered them a few more times, and we became friends. Eventually, they asked me to be their manager because they knew that I had a music business background. The big thing I learned is that gig swaps are a good way to play new cities while also giving a band from somewhere else an opportunity to play in your hometown. Basically, if we wanted to go play Nashville but hadn’t played there, I would reach out to a Nashville band who I think would fit the bill and say, “We want to come to Nashville, so let us play in front of your crowd with you headlining, and then you come to Memphis, and we will play and you open.”

How do you like the Baltimore music scene?

I love it. It has been absolutely incredible. It is a very community-oriented scene; it is very welcoming, especially with local venues like The 8×10. I felt I was welcomed into the family immediately. All of the musicians who I have met are extremely humble and extremely talented. I can go out on any night of the week and see great local music.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

You Should Know… "Ragin'" Randy Harris

"Ragin'" Randy Harris (Provided)

“Ragin'” Randy Harris (Provided)

“Ragin’” Randy Harris has always been passionate about music. And while his 9-to-5 days are spent in the banking industry, he has turned his love of music into a serious side hustle.

The 29-year-old Memphis, Tenn., native had a lot of plans before finding his niche. He was given the moniker — for which his entertainment business is named — while an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Wisconsin. However, he quickly decided that engineering was not his path and ended up earning a degree in music business and communications from the University of Memphis.

“My initial plan was to go to law school and become an entertainment attorney,” said Harris. “I wanted to help artists make sure they were getting fair contracts. I was accepted to the University of Memphis’ law school, but I had a full-time job working with my dad in finance. I ended up getting married instead.”

Harris cites the change of plans as “the best choice of my life,” and he has been happily married to wife Lydia for three years.

Since moving to Baltimore in June 2015, Harris has kept a full-time job in finance at an M&T Bank in Timonium. However, he also maintains his own business, Ragin’ Randy Entertainment, which recently partnered with Heady Entertainment. Together, they provide management, promotion, photography and journalism to the music scene of the mid-Atlantic region.

How did you become so involved with music?

I have been a music lover my whole life, my dad too — it runs in the family. I grew up in Memphis, which is a music town. When I was in seventh grade, I took band as a fine arts class. I picked percussion and played that until my junior year, then dropped it to play guitar in the jazz band. I bought my first guitar with bar mitzvah money, and I ended up being chosen as the first-chair guitarist in the All-West Tennessee Jazz Blues Band my senior year.

I majored in music business and communications because the University of Memphis didn’t have a broadcasting degree at the time. I was a DJ on the university’s all-jazz radio station, which is one of the only all-jazz stations in the country.

I decided to start sending concert music reviews to random publications that I followed to see if I could get them to pick me up. At this point, I was just writing reviews of shows that I was going to for fun. I wasn’t extremely hopeful. Then I got a response from Grateful Music. One of the main guys for the site lived in Memphis as well, so they picked me up. My first review was of a local band, Agori Tribe, that, funny enough, I now manage.

How did you transition to management?

I was absolutely mind-blown [by Agori Tribe] because they are all instrumental, which I love, and very progressive. I covered them a few more times, and we became friends. Eventually, they asked me to be their manager because they knew that I had a music business background. The big thing I learned is that gig swaps are a good way to play new cities while also giving a band from somewhere else an opportunity to play in your hometown. Basically, if we wanted to go play Nashville but hadn’t played there, I would reach out to a Nashville band who I think would fit the bill and say, “We want to come to Nashville, so let us play in front of your crowd with you headlining, and then you come to Memphis, and we will play and you open.”

How do you like the Baltimore music scene?

I love it. It has been absolutely incredible. It is a very community-oriented scene; it is very welcoming, especially with local venues like The 8×10. I felt I was welcomed into the family immediately. All of the musicians who I have met are extremely humble and extremely talented. I can go out on any night of the week and see great local music.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Beth Tfiloh

left to right: Shira Pomerantz as Silly Girl 3, Noah Broth as Gaston, Molly Azrael as Silly Girl 1, and Alana Gordon as Silly Girl 2 PC: Ashley Case

Beth Tfiloh cast members run through a scene. (Ashley Case)

Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School invites theater and  musical lovers to “be our guest” for its upcoming performances of “Beauty and the Beast,” based on the beloved Disney animated film.

The show brings together an impressive number of cast members — 45, according to Diane Smith, the school’s theatrical director and instructor.

“This show is huge, cast-wise,” said Smith, who detailed that in addition to the show’s well-known main characters of the young girl Belle who  is being held captive by the  enchanted Beast, there will be a crowd of actors onstage portraying the talking/singing  objects in the Beast’s castle and the townspeople outside.

Smith noted the large cast satisfied two of her goals: making sure there were enough parts for “the many talented students Beth Tfiloh is blessed to have” as well as concocting a challenge of putting together such a complex show for herself and students alike.

To ensure this year’s production outdoes the school’s previous performance of “Beauty and the Beast” a little more than a decade ago, Smith is delighted by her students’ involvement in the technical aspects of the show — from onstage effects to sound design and set design — and how hard they are working to create something that should be a radiant experience for patrons of all ages.

Performances run Feb. 5, 7, 8 and 9.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/2ka3CBb.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

You Should Know … Hannah Himmelrich

YSK_Hannah Himmelrich

Hannah Himmelrich (Justin Silberman)

Hannah Himmelrich, 22, has maintained an active role in her family’s business, Stone Mill Bakery, for as long as she can remember.

A Pikesville native, Himmelrich started working under the tutelage of her father, co-owner Alfie, at the age of 14. Himmelrich would commute from Park School to the company’s Green Spring Station eatery in Lutherville every day after school to learn the tricks of the restaurant trade.

After graduating from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, this past fall, Himmelrich returned home to join Stone Mill, known for its handmade European-style bread, on a full-time basis. She serves as a shift manager at Green Spring Station while also making regular visits to the company’s second location in Stevenson Village and its wholesale distribution center at Meadow Mill in Woodbury.

Though Himmelrich has contemplated moving back to Europe and pursing graduate school at some point, she said she is focused on bringing new and innovative ideas to Stone Mill.

When did you first know you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps and take up the family business?

Growing up, my dad told me the one thing he didn’t want me or my brother [Sam] to do was go into the restaurant business because it was so much hard work. But I knew I didn’t want to go straight into another job after I graduated from college, so having this option to come back to and work for my dad was perfect. Even when I was in high school, and every time I came home from college, I was always really involved in the business. After growing up around this business, I don’t know if I could go and sit in an office for eight hours.

As a shift manager, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

While I am one of the shift managers, I basically do whatever is needed. I usually run expo — making sure the food is prepared on time and delivered to customers — and I’m also behind the register a lot. Running the register is definitely my favorite thing to do because I like interacting with the customers. The only thing I really don’t do is make the food. I also have a few other projects I’m doing on the side, like a menu redesign and coming up with new food projects for our menu. The most important thing I have learned is to treat the people who work for you, the customers and everyone in the business equally, with kindness and respect. I think that reflects in the attitude and vibe of Stone Mill, which I consider an extension of my family.

What are some of Stone Mill’s defining characteristics?

The thing I think Stone Mill is known for is being a meeting place and promoting a real sense of community. I know most customers’ orders when they walk in the door, and we’ll have it ready for them as they’re leaving. I think people really appreciate that. One of our other managers [Chris Janoff] is the best. He’s the star, and we wouldn’t be Stone Mill without Chris. I think that’s due in large part to the way my father has handled the business and the way his attitude is toward accommodating whatever the customer wants.

Food-wise, my favorite thing is the brisket panini. It’s often not on the menu, because it sells out so quickly. We only make about five or six of them a day. Mostly, our sandwiches and our soups are hugely popular. I’m obviously biased, but I can’t think of anything on our menu that I don’t like or wouldn’t recommend to customers.

Is there any aspect of the business you would like to become more involved with?

At some point, I’d like to learn more about the bakery side and the bread we make. For a while, I was thinking about going to culinary school, because I love to cook and am very passionate about it. I’m still considering doing some kind of cooking course to learn more. I feel like if I’m going to be working in front of house, I should learn how to cook to have a better understanding of what’s going on in the back. If there’s something wrong with the food, for instance, I could better identify the problem.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Oy Vey! Those New Year’s Resolutions

Food

(By David Stuck)

After the champagne, chocolate, cake and cookies comes the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Suggestions abound: Eat less. Move more. Write it as you bite it. Use smaller plates. Use different colored plates. Use apps. Be mindful. And on it goes. I believe anything that makes a positive impact on a healthy new year, even small changes, are ideal. Be realistic and exercise, if only to get up and change the channels.

Here are some tips and recipes I’ve collected that remain my tried-and-true food tips for the new year that make eating delicious year-round. The idea is to reward yourself for healthy food. Don’t beat yourself up!

HEALTHIER CROCK POT CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (or easy to make your own)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 poblano peppers, blackened, skin and seeds removed and small dice and/or
2 banana peppers, chopped
1 10-ounce package frozen corn or crispy canned, drained
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley
7 corn tortillas
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions: Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, banana or poblano peppers and garlic into the crock pot. Pour in water and chicken broth. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt, ground pepper and poblano/
banana peppers. Stir in corn and parsley. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat both sides of tortillas with cooking spray. Cut the tortillas into thin strips and spread in one layer on baking sheet. Bake about 10-15 minutes until crisp. Or you can use coarse baked crushed tortilla chips. Sprinkle over soup just before serving. Can add some thinly sliced avocado on top also. 6 servings.

QUICK TIPS FOR 2017

  • Halve grapefruits; loosen sections, pour honey in centers and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Use healthy King Arthur Sprouted Wheat 100 percent grain flour for challah, waffles, sticky buns, etc.
  • Coat a pan with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle a light “snowfall” of sugar on cubed potatoes, with or without chopped onions, before roasting at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Shave fresh vegetables, such as fennel, on a coarse microplane for salads.
  • Always brine poultry before cooking for best flavor. Kosher poultry does this for you and is superior to all others.
  • Always rinse diced onions under cold water and blot dry. This rids them of sulfurous gas that can ruin salsa and guacamole.
  • Use the new store-bought, spiralized veggies such as sweet potato or squash in place of noodles in homemade chicken soup. Cook them in advance, and add to soup last.

LOW-FAT, LOW-SALT SLOPPY JOES
(Meat)
Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 jalapeno peppers, optional
1 cup no-salt-added ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Remove seeds from jalapeno peppers and dice, if using. Saute onion, jalapenos and green pepper in olive oil then set aside. Cook ground turkey, crumbling into little pieces. Drain and return to pan. Over med-high heat add all of the ingredients into the pan. Stir mixture for 3 to 5 minutes. Lower heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Serve on soft hamburger buns. Leave out the jalapeno if you don’t like it hot. If you do throw in two more, try adding petite diced tomatoes. Makes 4-6 sandwiches.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Gone Viral? No Sweat, Just Sweaters

Sam Barsky sports a home-made sweater at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. (Provided)

Sam Barsky sports a homemade sweater at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. (Provided)

Sam Barsky is easily recognizable by his hand-knit sweaters that depict themes ranging from nature scenery to Jewish holidays to well-known landmarks and tourist destinations.

Earlier this month, Barsky, 42, reached new levels of fame that put him in the international spotlight. A post on the website Imgur, self-described as “the best place to share and enjoy the most awesome images on the Internet,” went viral the first weekend January.

“I looked at my Facebook page and had over 100 friend requests all at once,” said Barsky. “Some mystery person found out about my sweaters and posted about them on a site that I had never heard of before without talking to me, which is not the first time it has happened. It apparently become their most popular article of the day, made their front page and went viral.”

Author’s note: How viral is viral? We scrolled through the comments section of the Imgur post and still couldn’t reach the bottom after five minutes.

Since then, the mass media picked up on the story. Media outlets all over the world have published stories and are actively seeking out Barsky for interviews.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “I have a few thousand unread messages on email and on Facebook requesting all these interviews and articles. It’s too much for me to handle all at once, so I’m getting to some every day and am writing apologies about why it’s taking so long to respond — that it’s because I’m flooded and it’s nothing personal.”

Barsky was interested in learning to knit for a long time before he finally took it up. It appealed to him because he could make his own clothes with designs of his choosing. However, he found encountered a lot of difficulty when he first attempted to learn while studying nursing at the Community College of Baltimore County.

“In the middle of the ’90s, I took a book out of the library, bought some yarn and tried to figure it out. I couldn’t, so I gave up for a time and concentrated on my studies,” said Barsky. “A couple of times throughout my years in college, I signed up for courses in various places like adult education centers to try to learn how to knit, but they were always canceled due to low enrollment.”

However, 1999 proved to be a difficult year for Barsky. He started to develop mobility issues that forced him to drop out of his nursing program halfway through, in the middle of a semester. He was left trying to figure out what to do next with his life.

At a flea market one Sunday morning, Barsky had a chance encounter with three women who were knitting that would be the catalyst for his learning to do so himself.

“I asked them, ‘how do I learn how to do that?’ They told me that they owned a yarn shop, and that if I would come in, they would teach me for free on the condition that I bought their yarn,” Barsky explained. “I made a point of wearing a commercial sweater with a multicolored paisley pattern the first time I went in, because I wanted to show them what my goals were.”

The yarn shop was Woolworks Inc. on Falls Road, which is now in a new location with new owners, according to Barsky. He was told in the beginning that making sweaters was for experienced knitters, so the women started him on a scarf instead, which he never finished. Several weeks later, a friend that he had met at the shop told him of another store called Woolstock Knit & Sew in Glyndon.

“The moment I walked in, the owner, Leslye Solomon, told me that I would walk out of the shop having started work on a sweater — I was very excited about it,” he said. “She started me on a solid color sweater. It took me about eight months to complete it, but I got it done just in the nick of time before the end of the millennium.”

After knitting two initial sweaters, each monochromatic, Barsky decided to challenge himself and create a sweater that depicted a map of the world in five months, followed by a nature scene “that had a picture on the back of a tall waterfall and a cloudy sky, and on the front it depicted a raging river with a covered bridge and waterwheel.”

The latter took him just two months to finish and he declared it a success — “People didn’t mistake for something else!” Since that time, Barsky has amassed an enormous collection of sweaters, and now averages about a month to make each sweater.

“At that point I realized I could put anything on a sweater,” he said. “I realized I could do buildings and iconic land marks, I did a castle. It’s really weird, but I did the Twin Towers before 9/11. I also did the Tower Bridge in London. Fast forward several months, I decided it would be nice if I had some Jewish-themed sweaters, so I made a Sukkot sweater, and shortly after that, a Chanukah sweater. Over the years that followed, I was making sweaters of many different landmarks all over the world, nature scenes, at least one for every Jewish holiday. By 2016, I was a celebrity within the worldwide knitting community.”

At first, Barsky would just come up with the idea for his next sweater off the top of his head. However, if he was going to visit a location that he had depicted in a sweater, he figured that he might as well wear that particular sweater — what better place to wear it? “I wouldn’t think of going somewhere with the point being to get a picture,” Barsky explained, however. “Whenever you’re at a tourist attraction, it’s normal to take pictures.” What stood out was his sweaters, rather than that he was taking a picture.

“Over time I realized I had a good collection of 10 to 15 pictures [wearing a sweater depicting my surroundings] — they weren’t the greatest, but at that point I realized I had to grow the collection and I would take pictures like that at every opportunity.”

Today, Barksy has a total of 104 sweaters, with matching pictures for 93 of them.

“For 105, I am doing a Groundhog Day sweater. I was planning to make an Martin Luther King Day sweater, it’s about halfway done, but because of this past week of publicity, I didn’t have the time to finish it,” said Barsky. “Since I only have two weeks, I’m focusing on getting the Groundhog Day one done. After that, I’ll find out what to do next based on what place we plan to travel to or what event comes up.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

You Should Know… Michael Hantgan

Michael Hantgan. (HoCo Photo)

Michael Hantgan. (HoCo Photo)

Michael Hantgan, 29, has always felt a pull toward helping his community wherever and however he can.

Originally from Owings Mills and currently a resident of Mount Washington, Hantgan has operated for the last year as the YL Chapter president (Young Leadership division for ages 21 to 40) for the Baltimore region of the FIDF (Friends of the Israel Defesne Forces).

Hantgan also has been on the board for the Baltimore region’s branch of JNFuture for the past four years. Both JNFuture and FIDF are advocacy and fundraising organizations focused on issues revolving around Israel.

While not busy with such altruistic endeavors, Hantgan is intensely engaged in the realm of computer technology, laboring during the day as an IT systems administrator for a new, small startup company in White Marsh.

Though he’s been a professional in the field for the better part of the last decade, Hantgan said computers have been a large part of his life ever since he can remember.

When did you first know you were going into your current professional field?

Like every young boy who was into video games, I wanted to go into game design and things like that. As I got older, I got better at understanding the different between software and hardware infrastructure. I was 6 when I performed my first hardware install, and that was before the “plug and play” components made it so easy. I distinctly remember installing my first CD drive; it was really cool, and I knew this was the field I wanted to be in. A lot of this [what I do now] didn’t exist when I was growing up: the cloud and so much happening with cybersecurity. So the concept of IT has changed a lot over the last 20 or 30 years. It’s a growth industry.

How did you become so  involved in groups such  as FIDF and JNFuture?

To a lesser extent, I was always involved [in the issues advocated by these groups]. I also happen to sit on the national board for both of those organizations in terms of young leadership. It wasn’t until I had become a board member for both that I really understood what [FIDF and JNFuture] were really about. I didn’t want to just keep donating, not just give money and say that’s enough. I wanted to do more. My parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents were very involved in the Jewish community, the land of Israel and this country. I suppose you could say it was a genetic predisposition to want to be so involved. In 2015, I lost three of my grandparents. The last surviving grandparent, my grandma, would have had her 100th birthday this March. After that, I felt an absolute push to make sure to get more involved. I feel it’s definitely something my grandma would have been proud of.

What are your thoughts on the rather divisive opinions on Israel right now?

It’s terrible. It’s important,  especially as Americans, that we’re able to talk about these things properly. Whether you’re Jewish or not, everyone should have a valid voice on the issue. But don’t buy into only what one side says, either. We need to have that dialogue and open communication. People aren’t communicating in the right way; they’re saying something, and it’s taken the wrong way. It just breeds more hate, and we have to find a  better way to communicate with one another.

Do you see any connection between your work in  IT and community  involvement?

The concepts of IT are very logical: building a network of communication that has the ability to grow. Being able to take that logic and reasoning and apply it to young leadership can be tough at times, but it helps give that structure and grounds in realism. There are people who have great ideas, but we need just as many people who can make them happen.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

D’oh Nuts! Local doughnut pop-up opens Hampden brick-and-mortar store

Josh Kowitz. (Mathew Klickstein)

Josh Kowitz (Mathew Klickstein)

Reisterstown native and resident Josh Kowitz, 34, calls out to one of his employees in the kitchen to use only a little bit of strawberry extract … “and a little bit of pink food coloring.”

It’s Thursday, Jan. 12, the first day of business for Kowitz and his Hampden-based doughnut shop, Center Cut Doughnuts.

“Add water liberally and then just thin it out a little bit,” he continues, giving instructions to his small staff in his quaint-sized store at 3528 Chestnut Ave., around the corner from his friends and pseudo-mentors at The Charmery.

Aside from being so close to Dave Alima and wife Laura who opened up and run ice cream store The Charmery — where Kowitz had installed an early pop-up incarnation of Center Cut multiple times over the two years he ran it as such a transient entity — 3528 Chestnut Ave. had another  obvious appeal for the new doughnut shop.

Kowitz lucked into finding a space that just happened to  already exist as a doughnut store.

Having closed their doors in November, the owners of B. Doughnut sold extant pieces of equipment to Kowitz, allowing him to more easily transition his pop-up, appearing regularly at the Hampden Farmers’ Market since May 2015, into his first brick and mortar.

His soft opening celebration of a sort took place on Tuesday, Jan. 10 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Regular hours are 7 a.m, to 2 p.m. now that Center Cut is officially open.)

“We overbaked,” Kowitz said with a hearty laugh. “We had a bunch of extra doughnuts left over.”

As such, Kowitz went out on the street with his staff giving out free doughnuts to passers-by. By this point, it was the “dessert hour,” as Kowitz phrased it, and he was able to hand out plenty of delectable doughy treats to Baltimoreans happening by.

For the time being, Kowitz is focusing on a basic line of specialty, gourmet doughnuts until he gets his footing, as he said.

“Just until I can start paying rent with some money in the register,” he said, again laughing. “I’m pretty close to that  already.”

A fan of the beloved animated television series “The Simpsons,” Kowitz has named his pink sprinkled doughnut the “Homer,” after the paterfamilias of America’s favorite highlighter-colored dysfunctional family.

There are a tidy handful of “Simpsons” action figures in the aqua-blue tinted doughnut display, and Homer’s face eating a pink doughnut not unlike those that can be purchased at Center Cut emblazons Kowitz’s chef’s apron.

“I mean, who doesn’t like  ‘The Simpsons’?” Kowitz said. “[The show’s] just synonymous [with doughnuts.]”

Kowitz went on to say that that his fandom of the show “doesn’t drive him,” though. “It’s not my life.”

Along with his signature brown butter doughnuts, old-fashioned glazed and lemon poppy challah doughnut (made from fried challah dough), it would seem these delicious sugary confections are his life.

Kowitz began trying his hand at making the perfect doughnut (or at least close enough) while still working his day job as a credit analyst for the past five years. His grandfather being a pastry chef and his family running the erstwhile local deli Bubb’s as well as a chain of local markets, Kowitz said food has been in his blood, be it making, serving or selling it.

For six to eight months, Kowitz said, he came home from work every night and went straight to his alchemical experimentations in determining the ideal yeast formulation.

“I’d try all these different kinds,” Kowitz said. “I’d go on the internet, I’d do this, I’d do that. And then I think by accident, I stumbled on this — a light, crispy, airy doughnut — and a light bulb went off for my ‘Aha! moment.’”

Center Cut Doughnuts. (Mathew Klickstein)

Center Cut Doughnuts (Mathew Klickstein)

After bringing his successes (and occasional failures) to the office, Kowitz began hearing from delighted co-workers that his concoctions were good enough for the open market.

Center Cut Doughnuts, so named for Kowitz’s love of baseball (center cut being a fast ball straight down the middle “and a doughnut has a hole in the center of it,” chuckled Kowitz), was born.

Doors are now open on Kowitz’s first full-fledged store after cutting his teeth at those farmers’ market appearances and pop-ups at The Charmery.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them,” Kowitz said of his longtime friends and husband-and-wife co-owners of The Charmery. “They helped me get my name out there, certainly.”

Having lacked the time and resources last minute before opening, Kowitz enlisted in the help of Dave Alima, who was more than happy to lend a hand … and a few blue plastic trays.

“Ice cream has given me my dream life,” said Alima. “And if I can help my friends achieve their dream life, I’m going to do whatever I can every time. This was something [Kowitz] had talked about for a long time, and I’m thrilled to have him here.

“The doughnuts are great, and it’s complementary to our ice cream. Who doesn’t want that in a neighborhood?”

Alima’s not alone in his declaration, with customers such as Jemal Cole trumpeting, “I’m a fan!”

Waiting in line on the first morning for his Center Cut fix, Cole has followed Kowitz’s creation since it was first  offered at the farmers’ market and also attended the store’s soft opening.

“I like that they’re local, I like that they’re new and different, that they’re not a chain,” Cole said.

Wendy Doak, another customer in line, hadn’t heard of Center Cut before reading about the shop’s opening in the newspaper but agrees that “I like to support local: I think it keeps the businesses and character alive of the city.”

Hampden’s “forward-thinking acceptance of new ideas,” as Kowitz sees it, is exactly what made the town a perfect place to kick-start Center Cut.

“If I were to tell someone who was visiting Baltimore where to go for food,” Kowitz said, “I’d tell them to go to Hampden. It’s the food mecca of Baltimore.”

“Doughnuts and ice cream,” Alima concurred. “This is the kind of stuff that makes Baltimore great!”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com