There is only one London festival that would dream of featuring an Ashkenazi-Sephardi cook-off, chocolate portrait-painting, rabbis eating live locusts and a Jewish cook book from 1846, writes Stephen Oryszczuk.
This year’s Gefiltefest festival will be the capital’s fourth, and if you’ve never been, all you need to know is that food dominates all day. They are a whirl of cooking demonstrations, lectures, tastings, workshops and stalls. This year, the programme has been greatly expanded, after organisers received a grant from the Natan Fund for innovation.
All this has founder Michael Leventhal excited about this year’s offering on Sunday 19 May at Ivy House in Golders Green.
“The cook-off in particular should be superb,” he says. “The contestants will be trying to prove which culinary heritage is superior, using an egg and a potato as their central ingredients. It will be compered by Clive Lawton – quite apt, considering his grandfather was a boxing promoter.”
There is an educational element to the festival. Golders Green Rabbi Harvey Belovski, who will be presenting on the Kashrut of locusts and who has remained secretive about whether his slot will include their consumption. “I’m leaving people in suspense,” he says, with a grin.
To the backdrop of Jewish music in the garden by Shir, there will also be Maureen Kendler and Rachel Davies talking about the first Anglo-Jewish cookbook in 1846 written by Lady Judith Montefiore, with Rachel demonstrating some of her recipes. Their slot – called Come Dine With Me in 1846 – is expected to draw the crowds.
Taking time to learn about pickling and krauting is all optional, as is Nikita Gulhane (aka Spice Monkey), who will be making a Cochin fish curry and talking about the cuisine of the Cochin Jews – something for the parents, perhaps, while the kids get busy making chocolate portraits for dessert.
The sweet stuff features prominently, in fact. Sarah Magnus will be explaining how to making desserts look professional, Fabienne Viner-Luzzato (not-for-nothing known as the Queen of Tarts) will be wowing the audiences and David Mendes will be whipping up “exquisite” chocolate mousse. Community celebrity Denise Phillips, meanwhile, focuses on Ashkenazi alternatives.
The festival also sifts the salt from the soufflé, with the winners of the 2013 Jewish Food Awards announced, revealing the public’s opinions on the best Kosher Bagels, Falafel, Kosher Restaurant and Cheesecake in the UK.
“Everyone eats food and in my mind the festival is a great way of bringing people together, Jews and non-Jews, to celebrate food,” says Leventhal. “Through a focus on food you can talk about culture, halacha and identity.”