It Started With A Manifesto
Jewish delis were closing. Our grandparents were getting too old to cook. Ashkenazi cuisine was perceived as a thing of the past, if perceived as a cuisine at all. We were friends in our 20s and we heard the call. It felt like something big was at stake. We came together with a fresh approach – to create a culinary laboratory where Ashkenazi stories and culinary wisdom from the Old World could be explored and brought into the New. So, we wrote a manifesto and launched The Gefilteria.
Then We Began Cooking Gefilte Fish
Gefilte fish packaged inside a glass jar on the supermarket shelf was the symbol of all that had gone wrong with Ashkenazi Cuisine. The dish had been held sacred by generations of Ashkenazi Jews and NO ONE should grow up thinking gefilte fish only comes in a jar. We spent a year cooking and reading up on the state of American fisheries. The Gefilteria started producing and selling a gourmet gefilte fish on a commercial scale, ensuring that no one would ever have to eat the jarred stuff again. The flavor was fresh. The look was beautiful. The fish was high quality and thoughtfully sourced. It tasted fantastic.
“We need not accept the extinction of this tradition, or of the robust, colorful, fresh flavors of Ashkenazi cuisine. We know that gefilte—like Borscht and kvass and so many Old World foods—is excellent when done right. It comes down to the basics of quality, freshness, care and creativity.”
Next Up, The Whole Damn Cuisine
We took our approach to gefilte fish and applied to all of eastern European Jewish foods. Drawing inspiration from our ancestors, old cookbooks, family letters and Yiddish literature, as well as our peers in the culinary world, we began cooking classic Jewish foods from our childhoods (think kugel, chicken soup, blintzes, pastrami, pickles, etc.) and less common dishes too (like fermented tonics, fruit soups, roasted goose, etc.). We took them to the streets of New York, to outdoor markets and food festivals, as well as art galleries and loft spaces. Pretty soon we found ourselves front and center in the Jewish food renaissance taking place across the country. We were cooking dinners, and pop-up restaurants and collaborating with other pros, bringing these foods to new audiences and presenting them in new contexts.
And Now A Cookbook
The excitement was infectious beyond our wildest dreams. Pretty soon our manifesto grew into an entire book, The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, containing recipes and stories that anyone, anywhere can bring home. Our mission continues: to keep the fires burning, and the ovens hot, for generations of Ashkenazi cooks to come.