Let's Eat

Meet the vegan instagram chef marking Yom Kippur on BBC's Celebration Kitchen

Ben Rebuck, a shulgoing, self-taught chef is making waves online


Unlike many of us — Ben Rebuck is looking forward to Yom Kippur. More specifically to Erev Yom Kippur, when the 32-year-old vegan food Influencer will be making his first appearance on national television.

Not only that, but it’s his first as a father. The shaven-headed, tattooed, content creator and his wife Tamara welcomed daughter Goldie a couple of days before Rosh Hashanah.

He now has the added excitement of meeting a slew of celebrity chefs and celebrities — and cooking live on air on a special Yom Kippur edition of BBC's Saturday Kitchen Live. “It’s the pinnacle of my career so far to show people vegan versions of Jewish food.”

The self-taught vegan chef has been asked to share some of the recipes that form part of his online repertoire. Since turning vegan six years ago he has featured hundreds of vegan dishes on his Instagram, TikTok and YouTube accounts. As part of that, the ‘Oy Ve-Gan series’, puts a vegan spin on classic Ashkenazi staples including challah, babka, spinach and cheese borekas and even a smoked salmon bagel.

This Sunday, on BBC television’s Celebration Kitchen, he’ll be joining a line-up that includes Israeli husband-and-wife restaurateurs, Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (Honey & Co) and former Palomar head chef turned restaurant consultant Tomer Amedi in the kitchen. At the dining table will be Rob Rinder, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Adam Kay — sharing their Yom Kippur stories.

Rebuck, whose total social media following — over three platforms — totals more than 350 thousand, has been focused on food since childhood. “I grew up watching the Food Network — I’d spend every night in front of cooking shows Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, James Martin, a lot of the American shows like Man vs Food — anything really.”

“I was obsessed with people eating and with making food and I learned so much from it.”

At that stage, it was a more hobby than a career goal, although his mum, Alison Green, had other ideas. “She used to write to all the food channels saying ‘you need to do Junior Master Chef — we need to get my son on TV cooking because he’s really good. It didn’t quite happen then but she’s kvelling now that it's happened 30-odd years later” he laughs.

When he did start to work it was in social media, for a range of different companies, including a stint at a Tel Aviv tech start-up, a football-related business and a series of news organisations.

About six years ago, he turned vegan and started sharing recipes about the food he was eating. “Over Covid, I had a bit more time and put more effort into it.”

Spare time was spent making content for his Instagram account, which grew to 40,000 followers “I eventually realised that I could do what I was doing for food and for myself.” So he gave up the day job, and a year later the numbers have mushroomed.

Posts, which had started as a picture of his meal and the recipe, are nowadays more videos and collaborations with other food influencers. These have included mainstream vegan content creators as well as Jewish and Israeli foodies. This summer he covered the best vegan places to eat in Tel Aviv and connected with Israeli writer and anti-semitism activist Hen Mazzig.

Rebuck is also proudly Jewish: “I’ve always been a spokesperson for Judaism and Zionism. It’s something I’m super passionate about and I thought it would be really cool to be able to show that through food. I’ve really put myself out there — it’s not been easy and I’ve dealt with a lot of hatred from a lot of people — it seems to come with the territory.”

He is constantly fielding antisemitic comments and messages — “Whenever I post anything remotely related to Judaism there will be hatred around it — Israel even more so. It’s a poisoned chalice so to speak. My goal was always to have a platform and to use that platform to speak about things I’m passionate about and I care about — whether or not that platform had anything to do with what I was talking about.”

He says he just wants people to be aware of the “so-called struggles” as it’s not easy talking about it. “For me, I didn’t think there were enough people with big platforms, who were Jewish, talking about it. Yes, you’ve people like David Schwimmer and David Baddiel who are trying to make a difference, but they are all older. There are not a lot of younger people — people who look like me. I look different — I have tattoos and I care about fashion. People look at me and the last thing they think is that I’m a Jewish guy from North West London but more some hipster from Shoreditch or whatever.”

And now the Hampstead Garden Suburb-born, Radlett resident is evolving Jewish food one step further with his veganised versions that will appeal to a whole new audience.

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