Our Big Kitchen and JewishCare – Cooking Together

July 26, 2012 by Henry Benjamin
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In a bold new initiative, Our Big Kitchen and JewishCare have held a fun cooking competition the real winners of which will be needy members of the Sydney Jewish community.


More than 150 JewishCare volunteers, backed up by around ten OBK regulars, divided into groups to cook meals which will find their way into the new Kosher freezers in the about to be opened new premises of JewishCare at Sydney’s Bondi Junction.

Judges Max Markson, Kerry Sackville and Philip Carr

Their work was judged by iconic event organiser Philip Carr, PR personality Max Markson and effervescent newspaper columnist and blogger Kerry Sackville.

The cook-in was organised by JewishCare’s Robin Bernitz who heads volunteers who make meals on demand. She told J-Wire: “We could be asking them to prepare a week’s supply of food for a family of four. Up until now,,they have prepared the food in their homes and that sometimes creates a problem with Kashrut. Some volunteers are Kosher and some are not but some very religious recipients don’t trust what is perceived to be Kosher  coming  out of homes they don’t know. In our freezers we plan to always have prepared meals should they should be needed which can be delivered urgently by our volunteers. I spoke to Rabbi Slavin and he told me this is a kitchen which is heavily used to cook for the needy. I thought we might create a partnership through which all my volunteers could particpate in a huge cookup and judge their we have based on Masterchef model. It’s a team-building exercise for our volunteers and I hope to recruit more. It’s also a PR exercise for JewishCare because a lot of people don’t know what we do.”

All the food prepared at the cook-up will be stored in the Kosher freezers at JewishCare. Bernitz added: “We will do this again in the future…I would like to introduce new volunteer groups focusing on young adults and family. You feel happy when you make others happy.”

The new JewishCare headquarters will keep the Kosher and non-Kosher in separate  freezers in their new premises.

Judy Kempler and Pnina Jacobson who wrote the award-winning Kosher cookbook ‘One Egg is a Fortune’ told J-Wire: “We have used recipes from our cookbook. This is another stepping stone in helping everyone out there in need.”

Max Markson unusually had few words for J-Wire.  “Spectacular, mouth-watering, sensational, tasty…and Kosher.”  Philip Carr added: “We haven’t tasted anything yet but the food prepared so far is visually outstanding.” Kerry Sackville confessed her love for chocolate  and said: “The concept is fantastic. I wish they could come to my place every night so I wouldn’t have to cook – the smells are overwhelming.”  Max Markson added:  “I think JewishCare should start a TV show called KosherChef. I’ve got my people on the phones already to Israel and New York.”

Max Markson, Claire Vernon, Kerry Sackville, Sarah Slavin, Robin Bernitz, Alan Vidor, Rabbi Dovid Slavin and Philip Carr

CEO of JewishCare Claire Vernon was more than impressed with what she saw. She said: “The calibre of our volunteers is amazing. A lot of support people get comes from family and friends and we can harness that power. But many people are often ashamed of the crisis they are in and are not willing to tell family and friends. The professionals at JewishCare can step in with our services. Our mission is to be the first port of call in the community.”

One of the volunteers chipped saying “it’s knowing that you’re not alone”.

For JewishCare president Alan Vidor, the cook-in was overwhelming. He said: “It’s beyond my expectations. It’s absolutely fantastic. I feel that I have put on weight just looking at what has been prepared. The quality of the food is superb…I am thrilled. I think we’re going to have a problem next year because when people hear about this amazing event we will have many groups who will want to compete in this competitio. It promises to be a wonderful annual event.”

Senior Manager of Child and Family Services at JewishCare, Ilan Buchman, added: “We have a very large number people in the community who desperately need food. It’s great that there will be food on demand. Single men and the elderly really depend on the supply of food on a regular basis. When these meals have been distributed we will do this again. We will be using Our Big Kitchen for those who require Kosher food. The food here will have the approval of Kashrut.”

Lana Kofman manages the volunteers. She said: “Twenty of our eighty volunteers have kosher kitchens. I don’t remember any problems with Kashrut. We know which kitchens we can trust…but now it is much easier. This is the beginning of a new relationship with Our Big Kitchen.”

Max Markson with winners Pnina Jacobson and Judy Kempler

A beaming Rabbi Dovid Slavin, CEO of Our Big Kitchen, said: “I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see the kitchen at full stretch and providing so much for the community. It’s a dream come true

In total, JewishCare has 540 volunteers.

And the winners?…Judy Kempler and Pnina Jacobson.

And of course those needy families who will be eating the food tasted and raved about by judges Sackville, Carr and Markson.



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