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Kugel Cook-Off Raises $100K to Support Tzedek DC’s Mission

By Jeffery Leon

October 3, 2017

Tzedek DC’s Eat Well, Do Justice! 2017 Celebrity Chef Kugel Cook-Off

On September 25 more than 300 members of the local legal community attended Tzedek DC’s Eat Well, Do Justice! 2017 Celebrity Chef Kugel Cook-Off to raise awareness about the justice gap facing D.C. residents with debt-related issues.

The event, which raised over $100,000 toward Tzedek DC’s mission, was held at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and featured several D.C. restaurant chefs battling for the best kugel, a traditional Jewish casserole. Among those who participated in the cook-off were chefs Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line, Mike Friedman of Red Hen and All Purpose, Danny Lee of Mandu and Chiko, and Alex Levin of the Schlow Restaurant Group. Chef Pati Jinich, host of the PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table, was originally supposed to attend, but had to cancel to help family in Mexico following the recent earthquakes.

Each chef brought a unique take to the dish and offered fascinating presentations, tastes, and both traditional and non-traditional approaches.

Judging the kugel dishes were journalist David Gregory, cookbook author Joan Nathan, and former D.C. Bar presidents Annamaria Steward and Marna S. Tucker. The kugels also were judged by popular vote among attendees.

Steward and Tucker chose Chef Lee’s version for its different spin on the dish. Nathan selected Chef Levin’s kugel dish for its classic appeal, while Gregory chose Chef Friedman’s kugel for its nostalgic reminder of his childhood. In the popular vote, Chef Levin prevailed.

Following the kugel contest were comments from Bonnie Benwick of The Washington Post, who praised the chefs’ dishes and revealed that the winning kugel recipe would be posted on the Post’s website.

Thanking the cook-off’s organizers and attendees, Tzedek DC president and director-counsel Ariel Levinson-Waldman said money raised at the event will go toward Tzedek DC’s work to provide financial literacy to D.C. residents, advocate for policy reform, and assist in offering direct legal services to residents.

Among Tzedek DC’s recent successes, Levinson-Waldman said, are its partnership with UDC to provide debt management information to incoming students and its work with the D.C. Council on policy reform on issues such as debt contracts and wage garnishment rules in the District.

"It was an amazing feeling for us all to gather . . . to help raise funds for Tzedek DC’s work advocating for D.C. residents facing debt-related crises,” said Levinson-Waldman. “We begin the next chapter for Tzedek DC energized and with eyes wide open about all the work left to do to close the justice gap for so many in need in our community.”