It must have been the sweet smells emanating from the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green that persuaded David Miliband to change his plans for his family’s Sunday.
The LJCC was hosting the annual Gefiltefest and, unable to resist the aromas from the various stalls, the Milibands opted to join the other 650 food lovers.
Standing beside Gefiltefest patron and cookery writer Claudia Roden, Mr Miliband said his mother had been a fan of Ms Roden’s recipes.
“It wasn’t so much the cheesecake, it was the chicken, couscous and chickpeas,” he recalled. But in terms of traditional Jewish food, chicken soup got the former Foreign Secretary’s vote every time.
The all-day programme included cooking demonstrations, hands-on sessions, children’s activities and food-related stalls run by volunteers from across the community.
“Everyone can connect with food on some level,” said Gefiltefest founder and director Michael Leventhal.
“We have always been determined to make the festival accessible to the whole community.”
Winners of Gefiltefest 2013 Food Awards, presented by JC chief executive Tracy Abraham and Israel embassy cultural affairs councillor Iris Ambor, included Kaifeng (best kosher restaurant), Kosher Kingdom (best kosher deli) and the Kosher Deli Group (best butcher).
An Ashkenazi versus Sephardi cook-off proved a big attraction with the Israeli head chef at Made in Camden, Eran Tibi, winning over the judges with his Moroccan doughnuts and filo pastry.
“Sephardic cooking is popular because it is all about taking a traditional dish and interpreting it to what’s in season and what your loved ones like,” Mr Tibi explained.
Judge and food critic Daniel Young mused that “Jewish food has to have a connection, a soul. The cook-off was not about which food is better, but what can be done with the food to bring out the flavours.” Other highlights of the festival included challah baking, pickling, a talk by Rabbi Harvey Belovski on kosher locusts, a conversation on kosher food in literature between author Francesca Segal and lecturer Ariel Kahn and cookery demonstrations by chefs Fabienne Viner-Luzzato and Silvia Nacamulli.
Among the challah bakers was Benji Levine, 26, from West Hampstead, who hoped “to use the skills I learn in my own kitchen. I like Jewish food so this seemed like the perfect event.”
Daniel Susser, 23, from Finchley was on a tasting voyage of discovery. “Food is something everyone has in common. No matter what branch of Judaism you belong to, there’s always food.”
There was also a social action element to the day with food co-ordinator Tarryn Klotnick — “queen of the kitchen” in Mr Leventhal’s words — endeavoured to ensure minimal wastage.
Proceeds from the festival will be distributed to food charities at home and in Israel.