Gefilte fish with a touch of soy

A Newport Beach man's painted impression of his wife's Jewish cooking won him first place in the professional category at a recent Jewish art competition.

Max Yamada placed first in the My Jewish Journey contest at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County for his painting "Jo's Gefilte Fish."

The painting, created with a painting knife, reflects Yamada's culinary Jewish journey by showing his wife, Jolyn Yamada, preparing a gefilte fish meal.

For the painting, Yamada took a photo of his wife making the food. The photo was then edited on a computer for different effects before Yamada began crafting the artwork with a painting knife on a wooden board.

He said the process took two days.

Yamada was "shocked" when he won first place at the juried competition.

"We weren't expecting it," he said. "I had to give an explanation on how and why I made this painting [at the award ceremony]. I'm Japanese, and I had to explain Jewish food."

Yamada, who was born in Japan and moved to the United States in 1988, said he likes his wife's Jewish cooking, but adds his own twists to it.

"I use chopsticks and add soy sauce to the food," he said. "Some flavors are not Japanese. Deboning a fish with a knife and fork is very hard."

Jolyn Yamada added, "He loves my matzo ball soup with soy sauce."

She also said she feels the Jewish and Japanese cultures are similar.

"Family, honoring our parents and food are all extremely important to both cultures," she said. "We both also celebrate the new year with traditional foods."

"Jo's Gefilte Fish" will be on display at the Slutzky Gallery at Merage Jewish Community Center, 1 Federation Way, Suite 200, Irvine, until Oct. 20.

For more information about Yamada and to view his artwork, visit

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