Nestled amidst the mountains of Colorado is the rustic Devil’s Thumb Ranch. It is a small, picturesque resort made up of log-cabin-like buildings, an outdoors swimming pool and endless rolling hills, blue lakes that reflect the sky, and as much mountain air as you can stomach. Cowboy paraphemelia like spurs and Stenson hats is scattered around the premises like the cast-aways of a bored Westerner who moved on to California in search of shinier gold. And early this month, for a glorious 48 hours, it served as a host to myself and 60 other young-at-heart, starry-eyed Jewish chefs, food writers and other food professionals who took part in the Harvest Gathering.
Friends, I must apologize for the two-weeks-long absence. I have spent the last 14 days travelling, going between Denver, Colorado, to New York, Poland and now, Israel. I will stay here for the next two weeks, working and resting and telling my mother I love her as often as I can. I have a lot of recipes prepared for the next few weeks, so I hope to not disappear again! Or at least, go as short a while as I can between postings.
But today, I’d like to tell you about an incredible food learning experience I took part in: The Harvest Gathering. Put on by The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in partnership with Hazon, this retreat enabled Jewish professionals who work with food to come together, explore the shared grounds of their passion, and push the boundaries of what we all consider as Jewish food.
The array of talent present here was mesmerizing. From chefs like Lior Hillel (Bacaro LA, Nature’s Brew and Bacari PDA in LA), Daniel Asher (Root Down, Linger in Denver, Colorado), and Josh Pollack (Rosenberg’s Bagels), to writers like Alix Wall (The Forward, The Organic Epicure), and bloggers like Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat and Lilly Shor of Three Silver Spoons, the opportunities for meeting incredible, inspiring people were unlimited.
One moment, you found yourself debating the merits of gluten-free crusts; the next, you were discussing methods of cooking bull testicles. Five minutes later, there was fly-fishing. From kosher butchery to anarchism in food businesses and cooking with cannabis, the workshops we covered were as diverse as the participants – and opened my horizons to new ways of approaching food in intentional, inherently Jewish ways.
For you see, beyond the networking aspect, there was a single unified thread going throughout the Harvest Gathering. This was the arch that brought all the disparate parts of the puzzle together, the schmear that bound bagel and lox into one incomparable creation. The Harvest Gathering had one single theme: that Jewish found is food that is grown, cooked, sourced and eaten intentionally.
Whether we spoke of how we ran our businesses, where we bought our vegetables, how we butchered our meat (or if we chose to eat it at all), or how we celebrated Sukkot, Pesach or R0sh Hashanah, we all agreed – it requires thought, care and intentionality.
Good food, Jewish or not, doesn’t just come from thin air; it requires conceptualization, excellent ingredients, and meticulous execution. And so do our businesses, relationships, and Jewish lives.
At the Harvest Gathering, we made new friends and business connections. But even more importantly, we reminded ourselves of what it meant to do things with care and attention; what it meant to practice what you believe in, consistently, despite the effort it required. What it meant to live in an inherently Jewish way, regardless of your religious beliefs.
So at the end of the day, I’d like to thank the Harvest Gathering for giving me the chance to get back to the basics. To breathe. To stretch. To reflect. To ask for advice. To explore discomfort. To taste. To criticize. To discover. To harvest and to gather.
I took part in the Harvest Gathering thanks to the generosity of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. However, I received no financial compensation for this piece; all opinions expressed here are my own.