It can be nerve-wracking to meet family expectations when you're making Bubbie's famous soup for a holiday dinner. But what if you're trying to meet the exacting standards of … Georges Perrier?!
About 20 entrants in the "Jewish Mama Soup-a-Rama" citywide taste-off finals will face such high stakes on Sunday, May 7, as the famed Le Bec-Fin restaurateur joins Cary Neff of Sansom Street Oyster House and Daniel Stern of Gayle Restaurant to determine who makes the region's best soup.
Scheduled from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center's Klein Branch in Northeast Philadelphia, the public event is both the culmination of local taste-offs and a celebration of a mitzvah project helping people in need.
No matter which finalist is handed the coveted Golden Ladle Award, all of them will have helped reach the project goal of donating 10,000 pints of soup to the JCC "Cook for a Friend" program, and nearly $10,000 to the Mitzvah Food Pantry to help feed older adults and poor families. It's a cause the celebrity chefs can easily "cleave" to.
"It's important to be a part of your community. People come here and support us, so it's nice to be able to give something in return," says Stern, who has worked with Rocco DiSpirito of "The Restaurant" fame and at Le Bec-Fin with Perrier.
"We've always tried to do whatever we can for the Jewish Federation," says Neff, who has also dedicated significant time and expense to fundraisers for local organizations. "As long as there's a need, we're going to keep helping out."
Soup-a-Rama organizers praise the chefs for their enthusiastic support.
"It's incredible that they're taking time out from their busy schedules to bring us their expertise," says Paula Sunshine, who's serving as Soup-a-Rama co-chair, along with Barry Kahan and Shelby Simmons. "We hope people will show appreciation for their generosity by coming out on May 7, and by patronizing these restaurants."
The Soup-a-Rama project was developed by Adath Israel's "Mitzvah Makers" committee in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and its Mitzvah Project Task Force. After hosting a successful local program last year, the Mitzvah Makers applied for a $10,000 Task Force grant to expand the project to the broader community. Soup-a-Rama is part of Federation's community outreach initiatives.
"This project is great because it deals with hunger relief while incorporating so many people from different groups," says Jessica Charmont, Federation's senior mitzvah-project planner. "It's been a wonderful opportunity for us to teach people more about our work."
The project has involved people of all ages from more than 30 organizations, including synagogues, Jewish day schools, community nonprofits and even a Girl Scout troop. Team entries range from dependable favorites, such as chicken soup to more exotic fare such as coconut squash and Greek lentil soup. Helping to reach the 10,000-pint goal are soup donations from Barclay Caterers, Betty the Caterer, The Catering Group/Party Creations and Best Value Caterers.
The public is encouraged to join in the fun. People can taste-test for the popular vote, enjoy entertainment led by emcee Sally Mitlas, and bring their children for Mother's Day card-making and other activities. Everyone will receive a commemorative cookbook filled with recipes and "soup stories" from Soup-a-Rama participants.
For more information, call 610-934-1919.