Chef Paula brings Cooking with the Stars to the JCC | Herald Community Newspapers

Chef Paula Gottlieb Herman hosts cooking classes across Long Island, including the Barry and Florence Friedberg JCC Cooking with Stars course in Oceanside for adults with special needs, such as Down syndrome or autism. The class, made up of 18 people, has been in person since October.

On the menu for the December 22 course was pasta with basil and spinach pesto. After the class watched Gottlieb Herman, 59, who has taught at the JCC since 2014, prepare the meal, they enjoyed an afternoon of Italian cooking.

Gottlieb Herman didn’t start out as a chef. “My original background was television,” she said. “I used to work for NBC News. I used to produce food segments and other special segments for the Sunday version of ‘The Today Show’. I worked on ‘The Today Show’, I worked on ‘Nightly News,’ I did Martha Stewart behind the scenes, really all sorts of stuff, but even though my chosen career was television, the food segments were what I loved the most.

Gottlieb Herman worked longer and longer hours as his career took off – sometimes up to 80 hours a week. However, she had to change her focus once health issues started showing up in her family. “My dad got sick, and at the same time that happened NBC was bought out by GE, and as a result of that buyout my job was eventually cut,” Gottlieb Herman said.

She left NBC in 1993. “I knew I would be able to find a job in those years,” she said. “The problem was my dad, and I couldn’t take away 80 hours a week when he needed me. I put my career and television on the back burner because family should always come first.

She dabbled in market research, hosting focus groups for L’Oréal, Lancôme and other high-end companies. Eventually things settled down enough with her father’s health, and in 2001 she married her husband, Michael Herman, whom she met in 1995. “He wanted to get married much earlier, but my parents were my priority,” said Gottlieb Herman.

Shortly after, the unexpected happened. Nine months after their marriage in 2002, her father died. “It was something I just didn’t expect,” Gottlieb Herman said. “I needed a way to honor his memory.”

Gottlieb Herman received advice that would shape the rest of his career. “When the time is right, sometimes people will give you the wisest advice, but sometimes the time is not right. You are grieving and you cannot listen. Fortunately, on the day of my father’s funeral, the gentleman who served my father said to me, “I want to give you some advice, and I really hope you follow it. Think of ways to honor your father’s legacy that meant so much for him.

Gottlieb Herman knew right away what her father loved and what she needed to do. “My dad loved food,” she says. “He did cooking classes, restaurant classes, we would go to restaurants for fun in Brooklyn. If I become a chef to inspire others, then that’s my father’s legacy.

In 2005 Chef Paula was born and she has been working there ever since. “When I pitched, my mom was sick at the time, so I couldn’t go full throttle,” she said. “But when my mother died the following September, everything was on deck. My mother saw me as a leader.

Despite the global pandemic, Gottlieb Herman continued her cooking lessons with the help of her husband. “2020 happened, and it was a blow because my whole business was on the line,” she said. “Before the pandemic, I was in 14 schools and also in JCCs. But the schools weren’t reopening and we had to go virtual. I had no idea how to do it. I’m a TV person, not a Zoom person, but my husband said we’d make it work.

The couple remodeled their dining room into a cooking studio complete with lights and cameras. “My husband was my lucky charm,” Gottlieb Herman said. “My mission to honor my dad wasn’t necessarily his mission, but he made it his mission, and Michael is my brilliant number two when it comes to my web design and my graphics and my ability to create beautiful designs. You’re dealing with a classic Wall Street trained software developer – probably the smartest brain you’ll ever come into contact with. I can’t build websites. I can’t doing graphic design. I can’t do videos. Michael handles all that stuff. He allowed me to get my message out there.

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