All-Star Night for the Bubby’s Cook-off Inaugural Event


    There’s one motto I always follow, “Ask and you shall receive.” It seems like Rabbi Yehuda Shemtov of Chabad Lubavitch of Bucks County abides by a similar code.

    His inaugural Bubby’s Cook-Off event, held at Vie on North Broad Street, was a huge success mainly because it united several of his friends who also happen to be our city’s top talents: Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Nicole Cashman, President of the public relations firm Cashman & Associates, Ruben Amaro, Jr., General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, James Beard award winners Jean-Marie LaCroix, executive chef of Brulee Catering and Guillermo Pernot, executive chef/partner of Cuba Libre restaurants in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Orlando and Washington D.C.

    When you have an all-star team like this working together for a good cause — in this case, raising money for Friendship Circle, a nonprofit that matches special needs children with teenage mentors — anything is possible. These chefs took notes from traditional Jewish cooking, and then added flavors to invent new possibilities (just like The Bubbi Project!). As a result, their food ventured far beyond anything our beloved bubbys could have imagined.
    This wasn't exactly like your Iron Chef competition with live cooking in front of the audience; however, there was a secret ingredient: the food had to be kosher. Did this put the non-Jewish chefs at a disadvantage? They didn't think so. Chef Lacroix said, "I was surprised that it was so easy. I used a 2,000 year old recipe and twisted it!" That twist was adding truffle pieces to matzo ball soup (and said matzo balls were deliciously light).

    Chef Pernot also step outside of his comfort zone by cooking kosher food. He also left his traditional Cuban style off the plate. "I love Mediterranean food. I did research and wanted to be unexpected. I used Palestinian ingredients too. Food is international," he said. His black bean hummus is usually made with cumin when served at Cuba Libre; however, in his Bubby's Cook-off dish, he used paprika as the main spice.

    He also remembers his connection to food through his own bubby, "My ya-ya was from Barcelona. I learned to cook with her. She also taught me how to crochet— it is very therapeutic."

    As attendees enjoyed tasting the different dishes, reflections and flavors of their bubby’s cooking also became a common topic of conversation. “Brisket reminds me of Bubby,” Jonathan Wheeler a Center City resident. Marc Oppenheimer from Bensalem noted, “The chicken soup brings back memories.”

    “I don't eat meat, but I cook my family’s brisket recipe because my husband loves it," Johanna DiMedio from Yardley admitted. Smiling, her husband Joseph DiMedio excitedly added, "It's amazing!" 

    The all-women judging panel, which scored each dish on five qualifications —authenticity, presentation, originality, temperature and, most important, taste — awarded first prize to … Chef Guillermo Pernot! If I were one of the judges, I would have voted for him, too…just sayin'.

    Congratulations All Around,
    The Bubbi Project
    P.S. Look for a full review of the event in the print edition of the Jewish Exponent and on