Food Fest requires a veritable village of volunteers

From start to finish, it takes some 200 volunteers to pull off The J’s annual Food Fest (like these food servers seen here). Positions range from preparing and serving food to selling tickets and assisting roughly 2,000 guests in various other areas across the event.

Barry Dreayer has been to every Jewish Food and Culture Fest ever held, racking up lots of time as a volunteer in the process. Although he’s done plenty of serving in the food tent, more often than not he ends up at the ticket table, where his CPA skills can come in handy.

“The Food Fest is a great way to see everybody in the community — not just people from your temple but from the entire community,” states Barry, a member of Temple Beth-El. 

“And the food is delicious.”

Ashley Lewis also helps out. “My husband and I love volunteering at the food fest,” she says. “It’s always so much fun and we get to see friends and family that we may not have seen for a little while. Most importantly, of course, is the amazing food!”

So come for the socializing, stay for the food. But who’s responsible for creating such a mouthwatering menu?

The J needs you

Volunteers determine Food Fest success, and for the past two decades they’ve charted a pretty stellar track record. The event relies on dozens of unpaid helpers to prepare and serve food. They’re also cashiers, and they help in the children’s area and staff other parts of the event. 

With an anticipated attendance of around 2,000 of our closest neighbors, we’ll need all the help we can get.

This year’s volunteer effort for the April 14 event will kick off soon with a crew making kugel (a sweet noodle dish) in The J’s kosher kitchen. Food prep shifts range in length from just two to three hours, mostly in The J’s kitchen.

We’ll be looking for some 200 volunteers overall. No kitchen experience is necessary, and we can pretty much guarantee you’ll relish the time spent with your crew and savor a sense of satisfaction for having made such an important contribution to The J — and to the community.

From what we hear, it’s a pretty good experience for everyone, and more than a few folks have learned a new kitchen trick or two.

A classic menu

This year’s volunteers can choose to help make sweet and savory Jewish brisket, pickles, matzah balls, couscous, or mandelbrot, a biscotti-like confection. And we’ll build on last year’s big success story with more pans of a Sephardic-style pomegranate chicken (we’ll be sure to up the order because we sold out!).

“We need to support all events that include ‘Jewish’ in their names,” adds Barry. “It’s so important in this community.”

But the best part? It turns out volunteers can come away from their shifts with something besides pride in a job well done. “I haven’t had to buy a t-shirt in years,” quips Barry.