Top Chefs Take Soup Kitchen Challenge at for Charity

A soup kitchen network in New York City is taking its cues from some of the most watched food shows on cable television with a benefit event that will feature both a live celebrity cooking competition as well as a buffet laden with the real life food challenges that are all in a day’s work for chefs at the group of free eateries that feed needy New Yorkers on a nightly basis.

The Masbia Soup Kitchen Network has been feeding the hungry for over ten years and since its opening in April, 2005 the kosher soup kitchen has expanded, now serving meals at three locations in Brooklyn and Queens and distributing one and a half million meals a year. Masbia relies heavily on the generosity of its benefactors and food donors which oftentimes requires the cooking staff to rely heavily on creativity and ingenuity.

“If you’ve ever watched Iron Chef or Chopped, you know that it can be very entertaining to watch chefs try to turn out gourmet cuisine using random or unusual ingredients,” explained Ruben Diaz, Chef at Masbia.  “Those popular episodes on cable television are great entertainment, but for those of us at Masbia, which relies on public donations to prepare thousands of meals weekly, those challenges are our reality.”

In one instance, Masbia received a donation of two pallets of rutabaga. “It was a wonderfully generous gift, but what do you do with massive quantities of rutabaga?” recalled Diaz. “How do you prepare a vegetable that most of us wouldn’t even recognize and make it appealing to the many people who come through our doors so that we can serve them with dignity?”

In another instance, our funds were low and Masbia was not able to replenish the food supply. Dinner time was fast approaching and while there were still enough chicken, there was not a single spice on hand to season the evening’s main dish. “We didn’t even have any salt left,” recalled Diaz.  “The only items we had in house that held even the smallest amount of potential were oatmeal and frozen orange juice. We had no choice.  We sprinkled the chicken with oatmeal and doused it with the orange juice and miracle of miracles, the chicken came out delicious.”Stories of this nature are frequent occurrences at Masbia.

“These just two examples of how our chefs manage to weave culinary magic in order to make sure that we are able to feed the many people who turn to us for a hot meal, but I can assure you that there are many, many more,” said Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of Masbia.

The parallels between Masbia’s daily conundrums and those dreamed up by executives at the Food Network make for a fabulously innovating fundraiser, Masbia’s Chop-Hunger Lincoln Square Soup Kitchen Challenge Dinner and Competition, taking place on August 12th from 6 to 8:30 PM in the ballroom of  the Lincoln Square Synagogue.  Featuring a fabulous buffet highlighting ten of Masbia’s most intriguing culinary adventures, an enticing array of wines donated by Royal Winery and a thrilling head on gastronomic challenge that will showcase some of the best cooking talent in the culinary arena, the event will be an exciting night benefitting the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network. Among those who will be participating in the Masbia-style cooking competition will be celebrity chef Levana Kirschenbaum, well known cookbook author and writer Leah Koenig, Syrian cooking expert Poopa Dweck, all-star judges Shifra Klein, editor in chief of Joy of Kosher magazine, Naftali Hanau, CEO of Grow and Behold and Liza Schoenfein, food editor at The Forward.

Tickets to the event, which will be emceed by Emmy award winning producer, Chef Avi Levy, host of Avi’s Kosher Kitchen and produced by Jesse Blonder of the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts are $85 per person, $50 for ages thirty and under and $180 for seats in the first three rows.  To order tickets or for more information contact or [email protected].

The Chop hunger Event is sponsored by Adam and Sarah Hoftetter in dedication, memory, and honor of their great-grandparents who were killed in the holocaust, Michoel Rosenbloom, Sorah Leah Rosenbloom, Yoel Zisman Rosenberg, Raizel Rosenberg and Chaya Weiss. HY”D.