The Charm City Kosher Cooking Competition, a fundraiser event for Cheder Chabad of Baltimore coming up Feb. 25, was originally inspired by cooking competition television shows like “Chopped” and the burgeoning interest in gourmet kosher cooking within the Baltimore community. The idea of the competition answered the school board’s desire to find a fundraising project that would also bring Jews together and serve the community at large.
Cheder Chabad board member and parent Rivka Slatkin brought the idea to life, working hard to secure a fantastic array of judges and contestants who will be preparing some amazing food. “Food is a common denominator amongst Jewish people,” said Slatkin. “It brings people together around the table, and everyone relates to the excitement of the competition, whether it be cooking, eating, or just watching people cook and prepare food.”
The competition will pit contestants against each other to create the best dish in 30-minute rounds, with both taste and presentation being taken into account by the judges. The catch is that the contestants will receive a mystery basket containing four ingredients that must be incorporated into the dish they’re creating. Contestants will have a fully stocked pantry to use to supplement their dish.
Luckily for the contestants, the competition’s judges — an assortment of Jews involved in the food industry (both kosher and non-kosher) — have promised to be kind and avoid the typical snarky commentary found in most of the televised cooking competitions.
Slatkin said contestants are so passionate and excited to participate that they’re constantly sending her pictures of the delicious food they’ve been cooking. Two contestants she’s heard from are Yaakov Kossoy and Shua Bier. Kossov loves to make international food, she said, and when he makes Shabbat dinner at home he incorporates dishes from a different country each week. Bier feels passionately both about food and supporting a wonderful institution like Cheder Chabad, so competing was a “no-brainer” for him.
Dan Neuman, chef at Baltimore’s Serengeti restaurant, will be providing a catered spread for the event with lots of exotic and gourmet appetizers like fried chicken sliders, smoked chicken egg rolls, and even a kosher BLT salad. His goal is to show that kosher food can be just as good as non-kosher food, said Slatkin, and he’s thrilled to be a part of this competition.
By Jackie Feldman
Jackie Feldman is a young professional living and working in Washington, D.C. She runs the group “Sephardic Jews in DC,” which hosts events in the metro DC area that celebrate Sephardic culture, religious tradition, and customs. She also has her own food blog that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes: https://healthysephardiccooking.wordpress.com/.