Showdown in the Kitchen

By Matthue Roth

Published February 28, 2008, issue of March 07, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

There is such a thing as a free lunch.

Sharp Skills: Joy Devor won the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off.
Sharp Skills: Joy Devor won the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off.

At least there was at the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off. On Wednesday, February 27, at the Financial District Hilton in Manhattan, six finalists vied for the coveted title of 2008 National Champion, an honor that comes along with a $25,000 kitchen makeover — and the far more dubious prize of the winner’s face and recipe being reproduced on boxes of Manischewitz products for the entire year.

Around lunchtime, a crowd of friends, family and press gathered. The finalists, from towns across the country, were Jewish and non-Jewish, male and female.
Texan Greg Fontenot, who made chicken in balsamic cherry sauce, discovered the contest while researching what “kosher” meant.

“A co-worker wanted a sweet dish for the Jewish New Year, and so I decided to do some research,” he told The Shmooze. “I came across this Manischewitz Web site and said, ‘Do you think I should enter?’ Everyone told me, ‘Oh, yes!’”

The contestants were a blend of destiny-seekers and happy accidents: food blogger Julie Hession from Las Vegas; Mark Levy, who “loves kugels, loves Mexican food, and decided to combine them.” Joy Devor, a mother of six — whose daughter was married earlier this week — grew up with Manischewitz products. Her “fantastic flounder rolls” were drizzled elegantly with Thousand Island dressing, framed on a plate by Tam Tams.

One hour was given to prepare each dish. Dairy and pareve cooks lined one side, meat cooks the other. Audience members wandered around, cheering or just watching. Finally, time was called, and the chefs, one by one, presented their recipes to the judges.

When Devor was announced as the winner, her family erupted into cheers. Loudest of all was her new son-in-law, who screamed, “All the flounder in the world better run!” Commotion ensued — most ebulliently from behind the judges’ table, where the entree entries were, at last, being served to the public.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.