Tips From The Top: One On One With Food Network’s Ron Ben-Israel

I spoke to Food Network star and wedding cake guru Ron Ben-Israel about his journey and his best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and what you have
learned from your journey to date. First things first, though, what is something
about you that your fans don’t know? 

Ron: I cherish spending time at home, cooking and serving dinner to friends and
colleagues. There’s no party for me like a “dinner party”! 

Adam: You have a very unique background between your time in the Israeli
army, your career as a professional dancer, your culinary career and your work
on television. What are aspects of each of these experiences that have been
interesting to you and that others might find interesting as well? 

Ron: I actually find similarities with all these careers, and that is why I gravitated
towards them. They require repetitive practice, discipline, and a a good degree
of egotistical show-off. 

Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to
your development and success? 

Ron: Rejection has been, as unpleasant as it may be at the moment, a great
motivator for me. Not getting a promotion or a role always drove me to work
harder as a performer. I was even fired once from being a short-order cook in a
restaurant for making the plates “too pretty”, and so I moved to a field where
pretty is a must. 

Adam: In your experience, what are the common qualities among those who
have been able to enjoy success on television? What have you found that
works and what doesn’t? 

Ron: My formative TV exposure was next to Martha Stewart; I learned from her to
improvise with ease and not be afraid of mistakes. I admire her keen interest to
learn new skills while being filmed. When I watch Guy Fieri or Alton Brown,
they seem to use the camera as an extension of themselves. The worst thing
that can happen is to freeze, but luckily I rarely find myself with lack of words. 

Adam: What are your three best culinary tips? 

Ron: Learn the basic techniques by working next to someone who knows more that
yourself – my mother was my first culinary role-model, as she was extremely
organized and methodical in the home kitchen.
Practice skills as if you were playing a musical instrument. The results come
later – while working I observe movement and rhythm, and not the goal.
Invest in absorbing the science of food – why do foods brown with heat? How to
thicken a sauce or dessert? How does salt work to enhance flavors? The
chemistry and methods are the key to success. 

Adam: What are your best tips on how to create a premium brand? 

Ron: Be true to your own standards. I couldn’t understand why wedding cakes were
not tastier when I started to bake professionally, so I sought to change it. I
wanted a better cake to be proud of, and couldn’t accept the norm. Having my
own name as the brand made me responsible to the content I deliver. 

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Ron: Practice the saying, “I would love to do this for you but unfortunately I can’t”.
This is from my good friend Rona, and it works for almost any sticky situation.

Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and why?

Ron: My career mentors have been my cake-decorating teacher Betty Van
Norstrand and my baking prophetess Rose Levy Beranbaum. Both have
influenced countless bakers and artisans, but when I came along not only they
shared their knowledge generously with me, but also encouraged me to find
my own way. 

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you? 

Ron: I don’t think I ever had a hobby that didn’t morph into a career. If I go camping
I’ll find a way to bake a cake on the pitch fire. I find everything interesting, so
there’s no distinction between work and leisure. 

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward? 

Ron: You have to give it away in order to keep it. Early on I was asked to contribute
to the fight against hunger in New York City by collaborating with City Harvest –
the first organization in the USA to rescue food from restaurants and locations
and distribute it to the hungry. Side by side with many of my city’s chefs and
restauranteurs, I learned so much about our food culture, healthy balanced
eating, and how fortunate I am. Since my work is in the luxury market, working
to help the needy through City Harvest proved to be a perfect fit. 

Adam: Is there anything else would like to share? 

Ron: I’m always excited about the designs my team and I will come up with for the
next season, and all the opportunities to collaborate with celebrants on their
life’s occasions. When I have a challenging day, I try to remember what a great
role I get to play in life! 

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