Gefiltestfest is seven years old. The quirky festival of Jewish food returns to JW3 in Finchley Road on 26 June. I spoke to the festival’s Lisa Helpern for the low-down.
1. What’s the origin of the festival? Who’s idea was it?
It was founded by publisher Michael Leventhal as a charity to explore Jewish heritage through the medium of food.
2. In London in the Summer you can’t move for food festivals and pop-ups. What’s going to make hungry people come down to JW3?
We offer something quite different – aside from our fabulous pop up market there are 40 sessions to choose from throughout the day – workshops, demos, learning sessions, all with the common thread of Jewish food and culture, led by Jewish Chefs, food writers, restauranteurs and so on. We are also kosher under the auspices of the SKA (Sephardi Kashrut Authority)
3. Is Gefiltefest just for Jewish foodies? Or for hungry people in general?
The festival’s for everyone! It’s part of the fabric of London’s cultural diversity.
4. Is Jewish food thriving and evolving? Or is it all about fading traditions?
Most definitely thriving – reinvented and renewed and very in vogue. Take Palomar, the award winning Soho restaurant; Emma Spitzer, last year’s MasterChef runner-up and Aron’s Deli in Bristol – all contemporary success stories in Jewish-inspired cuisine.
5. Who are the superstars at this year’s Gefiltefest? Who should I rush to see?
6. What are the big trends in Jewish food you’ll be covering?
Babka, rainbow doughs, kosher prawns, and seasonal eating in line with the jewish calendar.
7. Can I learn to cook at Gefiltefest?
Yes – plenty of workshops and demos (your admission ticket also covers the workshops).
8. Is there anything for the kids to do?
We’ve got drop-off sessions for 5-11 year old through the day and supervised drop-in sessions for 2-11s. There are craft activities through the day, face painters and plenty of tasters in the food market.
9. What are you looking forward to most? What’s got your mouth watering?
Nof Atamna Ismaeel – Israel’s MasterChef winner from 2014 – she’s a microbiologist and an Arab citizen of Israel. Her dishes combine Arab and Israeli traditions in a really exciting way (more about her on the festival web site).
10. Will there be rainbow bagels?
One step beyond, natch – rainbow doughs in hamantaschen!
For your listening pleasure, a montage of sounds from last weekend’s Radlett Festival. You will hear Gavin from Tzar in the High Street; Louis (selling cakes for a charity whose name he can’t remember); Nicola and Louise from Radlett Ladies’ Circle (poker nights, cocktails, chocolate but apparently no crochet classes); Nicolai, a governor at Fair Field and St John’s; an anonymous woman apparently looking for some Morris men; the intrepid founder of Salsa Brava, Radlett’s own (only?) artisan salsa manufacturer; the quite unhinged people from Radlett Players; Graham Taylor, chair of the Radlett Society (with his really wonderful Aldenham walkers’ map).
I could (and really should) have spoken to so many more people on that rainy day. I missed the Morris men all together and definitely should have spoken to Ricky Lopez and the nice people from Bhaktivedanta Manor (who were there with their lovely free food as usual). Next time!
Yes, it rained all day. Yes, the dog show lacked its usual glossy sheen in the downpour. But the Ricky Lopez Ratpack Show proceeded with pizazz worthy of Palm Springs and Clive Glover, one of the organisers, tweeted on Monday that over 1,000 attended the festival during the day so I expect that the event will still have raised a substantial sum for the charities and local organisations it supports (I’ll try to update on that once the details are available). I was taking photos and recording audio of the event (which I’ll publish later) and literally everyone I spoke to during the day was relentlessly chirpy about the whole thing. A proper British Summer treat, in fact.
All the photos on Flickr are published under a Creative Commons licence, which means you may use them without permission and for free. You just need to provide a credit or a link back if you use them. Let me know if you do. And if you’re in any of the pics or you know the names of those who are, please add a comment or a note to let me know.
Allan Beaver, now 77, is widely acknowledged to be the moving force behind the Radlett Festival, responsible for its revival in 2004 and for much of its success – as a fun day out and as an impressive source of charitable funding for local projects – over £40,000 has been raised and dispersed to charity since 2004.
He spoke to me in the lovely ‘teen shelter’ at Phillimore Rec – part-funded by the Festival of course – on the weekend before the festival. It’s a fascinating story – a potted history of Allan’s time in Radlett with his wife Muriel, touching on his business Beaver Travel, his academic life (he’s a professor), his writing and, of course, the Festival itself.
He generously credits the rest of the enthusiastic festival team. The festival starts at noon today and, although it’s raining as I type this, I suspect it’ll be another hit.
If you can’t attend, or if you want to catch up with the excitement before you go, you can tune in two hours of live coverage from noon on our local radio station, Radio Verulam, 92.6FM, or online.
Download the MP3. More pictures of Allan on Flickr. This is an episode from the Radlett Wire podcast. Get every episode delivered to your computer for free here.