Largest Kosher Soup Kitchen in US Hosts Cooking Face-Off With BBQ Pitmaster, Jewish Chef From New York
by Shiryn Ghermezian
A culinary experience on Wednesday night in New York City benefitting the Jewish-run non-profit soup kitchen Masbia treated attendees to 12 dishes and a live cooking demonstration featuring a juxtaposition of cuisines and styles of cooking from two very different chefs — a pitmaster and barbecuer from Kentucky and a Jewish cookbook author and cooking instructor from Long Island, NY.
The event, hosted by the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan, was called “Chop Hunger IV” and raised more than $70,000 for Masbia, which the largest kosher soup kitchen and food pantry in America, according to its website.
It highlighted Micah Seavers’ down-home southern comfort food recipes from the south, adjusted to cater to a kosher-observant crowd, in contrast to Naomi Ross’ more elevated and high-end kosher recipes. Ross showed the audience how to cure raw salmon for two days before making a tartare while Seavers presented attendees with simple but delicious salmon patties that he said was a staple during his childhood. He later served smoked southern barbecue-style ribs with a dry spice rub alongside grilled pineapple, cornbread and a potato pancake. Ross served braised short ribs in a pomegranate and port reduction on top of a celery root and potato puree.
The sit-down, six-course meal included fish, chicken wings, soup, salad, beef ribs and dessert. Each course offered one dish cooked by Seavers and another cooked by Ross, for a total of 12 dishes.
“All these foods, except for the beef ribs, are actually what I ate when I was growing up and we were very poor,” Seavers told The Algemeiner about his recipes for the event. “So all these foods to us are staples, southern, this is what you had items — but [then] we beefed them up a little bit, made them a little extra, a little bit different. But these are the kinds of foods that take you back home. What it is is comfort. [It] makes you relaxed.”
Ross is an experienced cooking instructor who recently published her first cookbook The Giving Table, which includes all the recipes from Wednesday night’s event and even a spread about Masbia and its work. Over the last few years she has volunteered to help with a number of Masbia’s food rescues, in which food that is at risk of being thrown out is donated.
“The theme of my book is giving and all different avenues of how we give through our cooking,” she told The Algemeiner. “And I really wanted to have one segment in the book about feeding the needy, because to me that’s the ultimate form of how to give through food.”
Seavers was first introduced to Masbia after a deadly tornado ripped through Mayfield, Kentucky, a city of just over 10,000 residents, in December 2021. He turned his local restaurant Southern Reds BBQ into a feeding center where they prepared and offered thousands of meals to first responders and emergency workers, and Masbia helped provided equipment, supplies and some packaged food to help keep the operation going. A team from Masbia — including Masbia’s Executive Director Alex Rapaport, his staff, a rabbi from the Orthodox Union, and Jewish chef Naomi Nachman with her daughter — flew to Nashville to assist Seavers on the ground.
“[After] Alex came down to help us during the tornado, we told them ‘if there’s anything you need us to do, we’ll come up and help,'” Seavers told The Algemeiner. “He called and said ‘Hey, we have an idea. Would you be willing to do it?’ And I’m a man of my word and here I am.”