Some of Jerusalem’s most impoverished residents were treated to a gourmet meal at Meir Panim’s free restaurant on February 19, when Josh Steele, a finalist on Israel’s popular MasterChef television series, prepared the food.
Since 2000, Meir Panim has been responding to the growing needs of Israel’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social-service programs. Annually, the organization serves at least 300,000 free meals out of a network of restaurant-style soup kitchens, which also prepare meals-on-wheels for delivery to an additional 125,000 people. Meir Panim also targets children in impoverished areas, offering hot lunches, afterschool clubs, and summer day camps. All programs give relief, in a respectful way, to many of the country’s neediest residents.
“Even as an idealistic person, I never thought I’d make it onto MasterChef,” said Steele, a Jerusalem resident who is originally from London and has been gaining fame for his creative cooking style and unique kosher cuisine. “And now that I’m on the show, I think it’s important to help out Klal Yisrael and do something meaningful.”
For the diners at Meir Panim, Steele prepared a meal of roasted chicken with thyme and cauliflower in lemon-olive vinaigrette, risotto with peas and parsley, and Israeli-style baked beans with chickpeas, tomatoes, and onions. “Every dish is an experience and tells a story,” Steele explained. “The meal I prepared at Meir Panim today tells the story of Israeli foods in a way that is affordable and accessible to all and uses traditional, natural ingredients.”
Steele’s visit was certainly a great success; at least 150 people received the meal he prepared. “One thing you should know about Meir Panim is that they serve people with honor and dignity,” one guest said candidly after finishing his meal. “The food is always tasty, the place is always clean, and Meir Panim gives to us with all their heart,” another woman added.
“I believe in the work that Meir Panim does and want to help people with my work in preparing high-quality, sophisticated kosher food,” Steele said. “It’s not just about being on TV, but it’s about making a difference.” v