Jeremy Jacobowitz earns a living doing what many dream of: savoring as many delicious bites as possible. After years in the television industry, he left the small screen behind, began creating videos and built a community of nearly a million followers across various platforms.
Jacobowitz, who proudly identifies as a quintessential New Yorker, primarily focuses on street food and dining spots throughout the Big Apple. However, he occasionally ventures out for tours beyond the city, and recently completed a special series of videos in Japan and Korea.
“I grew up Jewish, my whole family's Jewish, had a bar mitzvah, did the whole thing. I'm much more a New York cultural Jew than anything else… that defines me more than the religious aspect of it,” Jacobowitz says.
What does it mean to be a New York Jew? “To me, it's defining it as my culture more than my religion because you certainly have very religious New York Jews as well and that's just not who I am. I am a New Yorker through and through and the Jewish community has such a connection with New York that just sort of comes through. I mean, bagels are a New York institution. Yeah, those are Jews from Poland but it's all ingrained in one. I think that's what I connect to so much more than anything else. To me, [Judaism] is definitely the culture and the history, that is who I am."
While you primarily post videos about food and travel, you've also touched on the topic of antisemitism. Do you feel the rise in antisemitism on the ground that's reflected in the statistics? “I'm not going to deny stats. The stats are there. It's still an issue. I don't necessarily feel it on the streets. I think this is part of a deeper conversation. My life is online. I see antisemitism from high level to low level every single day in my comments of just. Some of it is just ignorance, some of it is hatred, some of it is people just wanting to be idiots.
“One thing I always go back to is being in temple growing up and the number one thing that we said over and over and over again, it was ‘never forget,’ especially dealing with the Holocaust. And as a child, I was thinking ‘that's silly. How could you ever forget the Holocaust?’ But we're seeing that play out. It's not even a hundred years and people have forgotten about it. And it's insane to me that they would say things like that.
“Talking about how I look, who I am, why my perspective is this or that. Even things like ‘take a shower.’ It's a silly thing to say but it’s actually something deeply rooted in antisemitism. I think some people don't even mean it to be mean and antisemitic, but I don't even think they understand just how deep-rooted that is.”
Does it hurt you? "When you post videos every single day to an audience of almost a million people across all platforms, you're going to get some bad apples. To be fair, I get things said to me about everything every single day. So beyond the Jewish stuff, every day I have trolls, every day people are mean to me. It's still by far more positive things and I’m ready to pay the price because that's what I do."
Have you ever been to Israel? "Yes, I did Birthright about 10 years ago now. I loved it but I think it was weird. I obviously appreciate a free trip but there were so many meetings that you have to sit through about, ‘you got to be a Jew, you got to have Jewish babies.’ Well, it was a free trip, so you have to. It's not complaining, just telling it as it is.
So you weren't free on this trip to explore the culinary side of Israel. "Not so much, obviously. It's hard when there's 25 people. That's why I'm dying to go back there. I've had a few opportunities, but timing-wise hasn't worked out."
Do you follow the news here in Israel? "I don't like the direction a lot of the political stuff is going in Israel. I think there's a lot of complications to Israel since the beginning. I just find that I have a lot of political differences with a lot of countries I love. I have a lot of political differences with America, which I love, and Japan and Korea, all these places that I could have love for and love the food and culture and people. So while I'm concerned, it doesn't mean I wouldn't want to have love for it.
It goes back to why I love all these countries that I travel to. It's the people, the culture, the food, that's why I travel and one of the best places to do that is Israel. Keeping in mind that, I have political differences with a lot of what happens there."
Israeli food in New York? Not just a passing trend
Jacobowitz started shooting videos as a hobby but initially kept his TV gigs. About eight years ago, he realized that to succeed in this field, he had to switch to social media full-time while securing several sponsorship deals for his videos. For instance, his recent trip to Japan and Korea was done in collaboration with a sponsor.
How do you choose the locations for shooting your videos? “I'm pitched probably like 12 restaurants a day and I do three shoots a week. It's honestly just what excites me. The restaurant could be amazing, but if I don't find that dish or find that story that I want to tell with it, maybe it goes on a back burner. But if there's a dish I'm excited to try or this story I'm excited to tell, that's what gets me in there."
Do you also post about places you didn't like? “No. I think to be a critic, you have to do things a lot differently than the way I do. You have to go back multiple times. You have to go in and not let them know you're there. You have to truly review a place. I'm there filming. They clearly know I'm there. Whether I tell them I'm coming in or not, they know who I am, and they see this giant idiot with this camera, they know what's happening. I always just highlight what I like, keep it all positive."
Is the trend of Israeli restaurants still strong in New York these days? "Oh yeah, I literally just finished an edit five minutes ago of a new Israeli restaurant. It's all food that is simple on the surface but has such a depth of flavor to it and it’s really unique and interesting. I personally love it. It seems like everyone in New York is loving it because more and more places are opening up."
And what about old-school Jewish delis? "Those are sadly disappearing. I also have a soft spot in my heart for those because that sort of goes back to my roots as a New York Jew. Those are struggling a little bit more but we still have some classics.
We actually have Jewish-inspired restaurants opening but it's more diner food than necessarily Jewish food. I get in trouble for this too because again, how I define Jewish food is Jewish food I grew up with, which is very much like New York Jewish food. I'm not kosher, I've never been kosher. The Israeli restaurants in New York City aren't kosher. The Jewish restaurants for the most part in New York City aren't, I'd say half and half. I think it's kosher style. I would never call a cheeseburger kosher, because I also don't want someone going there and assuming it's kosher and then it's not."
Sales were up five times
One of the major challenges in the field of food writing or photography is trying to convey the taste of a dish to viewers. After all, How many times can you say that something’s crispy, well-balanced in flavors or simply delicious? According to Jacobowitz, it's pretty difficult.
“I look back at my videos and I guess I kind of say the same thing over and over again, because there's only so many ways to say that something’s good. I think that that's why it's more about being as excited as possible.
If you sound too scripted, like you're trying to find the words for it to make it sound flowery, it doesn’t feel real. So I just film myself doing two things when I'm eating. I film my instant reaction, whatever comes to my brain. And then I think for a minute, I think about how to truly express this on camera, and I say that. Then in the edit, I kind of just combine it so it feels as natural as possible. As long as I'm excited, it almost doesn't matter what I say about the dish.”
What happens the day after you post something good about a place? “Sometimes I hear back from restaurants. I went to a restaurant called Carriage House a few weeks ago and I posted about the burger. And then I ran into the chef owner who I'm friends with about a week or two later. He told me burger sales were five times up the day after the video got posted.
“No, I kind of spend almost no time eating. Unfortunately, I'm much more on my computer than a high-tech guy. I sit in front of my computer all day editing. That is my job”
I can imagine there's places that I post and all of a sudden, you can't get into the restaurant. I think it happens over time. I think it's rare that people jump on it immediately. I think they're going to go there at some point. Maybe they don't even live in New York, but when they travel to New York, they're going to go there. Okay, so maybe it's not going to be tomorrow just after the post, but it's going to be in the few months after that."
Do you cook at home? “Yes, I cook very basic. I eat most meals at home, and it is just basic and healthy and the same things every single day. I get to eat enough when I leave the apartment.”
You don't just eat all day. “No, I kind of spend almost no time eating. Unfortunately, I'm much more on my computer than a high-tech guy. I sit in front of my computer all day editing. That is my job.”