Kosher cooks boil over

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

A SIM­MER­ING row over the re­sults of a cook­ery con­test this week boiled over into a full-blown broiges.

Lead­ing Jewish chefs com­peted in a pub­lic cook-off at June’s Ge­filte­fest, held at LJCC.

The event was flagged as Sephardi v Ashke­nazi based on the recipes and cook­ing styles in­volved.

The win­ner was Denise Phillips, an Ashke­nazi au­thor who prides her­self on kosher “de­signer recipes”. The loser was Na­dia Be­naim, well known in foodie cir­cles for the De­li­cious Diva cook­ery classes she runs at her Hamp­stead home.

In­sid­ers re­veal that Ms Be­naim was vis­i­bly up­set when the re­sult was an­nounced. She is said to have later made a com­plaint, claim­ing that Ms Phillips broke the rules by us­ing an as­sis­tant and pre-cooked in­gre­di­ents.

One source said that the com­pe­ti­tion was sup­posed to have been fun, but that the cooks had taken it too se­ri­ously.

But Ms Be­naim in­sisted: “The rules were not ad­hered to by Denise. She had an as­sis­tant and I wasn’t told I was al­lowed one.

“I wasn’t al­lowed any of the equip­ment I wanted. I didn’t even have a knife, but Denise had s**t loads of equip­ment. Also, I had an hour to pre­pare. Denise did prepa­ra­tion with her as­sis­tant so that’s re­ally two hours.

“I was so stressed. It was so rot­ten. It was meant to be fun. I al­most quit. The at­mos­phere at our cook-off was re­ally un­friendly.

To com­pound ev­ery­thing, the au­di­ence tasted the food, and on a show of hands I won their vote. It was an­nounced — Denise won the judges’ vote, and I won the au­di­ence vote.

“But in her news­let­ter, she claimed she won the au­di­ence vote.”

Ms Phillips said: “I am amazed to hear the al­le­ga­tions. I fol­lowed the rules ex­actly as told to us by the fes­ti­val.

“They made it very clear what we could or could not do and if the judges had a prob­lem they would have said.

“I did use an as­sis­tant but the guide­lines said ‘each chef will have one run­ner to help put things in the oven.’ If Na­dia didn’t have one that’s not my fault.

“I think it’s been blown out of all pro­por­tion, I didn’t even win a medal.”

But Ms Be­naim was un­re­pen­tant: “I want Denise to ac­knowl­edge that I won the au­di­ence vote and Ge­filte­fest should apol­o­gise to me for not let­ting me have equip­ment and an as­sis­tant. “I only wanted an even play­ing field.”

Denise Phillips ( far left) and Na­dia Be­naim

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