Cook with celebrity chefs, attend panels, and eat communal Shabbat dinners—from the comfort of home.

As much of the world sits at home in social isolation, big things are happening on our screens. The Great Big Jewish Food Fest, a 10-day virtual festival, kicks off on May 19 with a packed lineup of free programming. Throughout the next week-and-a-half, chefs and food personalities will lead cooking classes, host happy hours, and celebrate all things Jewish cuisine.

Virtual The Great Big Jewish Food Fest
Credit: Lauren Volo

The festival will offer attendees the opportunity to peek into the home kitchens of the pros. On Friday, May 22, Gail Simmons is teaming up with chefs Michael Solomonov and Einat Admony, as well as cookbook author Adeena Sussman, to prepare a big Shabbat dinner. They’ll be making Solomonov’s hummus with mushrooms, Admony’s Moroccan chicken with lemons and olives, and Sussman’s jeweled rice and tahini-glazed carrots. The festival uploaded the recipes onto the event page so that participants can buy ingredients in advance, and everyone can cook together. 

The Great Big Jewish Food Fest Virtual
Credit: Jamie Thrower

“The interactive elements of the festival are testing the limits of how food brings people together,” said Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-owner of The Gefilteria and co-executive producer of the event. "[It] gives us an opportunity to provide a platform for the many people cooking, writing about, or thinking about Jewish food. People whose restaurants have closed, had events put on hiatus, cookbook tours canceled." The events bring together food folks from all corners of the industry, whether they identify as Jewish or simply lovers of Jewish food and culture.

Over the past few weeks, the organizers have worked to build out an online community that has become an active part of the festival itself. In addition to the talks and workshops hosted by big names, there are several community-produced events that will be held on social media.

The Great Big Jewish Food Fest Virtual
Credit: Fine Bagels

While all the festival events are free, donations are encouraged. The Great Big Jewish Food Fest has teamed up with charities working to provide relief in the wake of coronavirus, including the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant Relief Fund and the Jewish Food Society’s fund, which feeds healthcare workers on the front lines in New York City. 

As of May 19, 10,000 people have registered to attend events, and the festival has raised $36,000. They’re hoping to raise $100,000 by May 28. Register here for The Great Big Jewish Food Fest.