Some 600 hungry revelers turned out to sample the fare at Chabad of Georgia’s first Kosher Food & Wine Atlanta festival at the historic Georgia Railroad Freight Depot on Thursday, Aug. 27.

Caterer Sandra Bank of A Kosher Touch was the night’s honoree.

“This is a huge honor. As an immigrant 20 years ago, my welcome by the Jewish community was amazing,” the South African native said. “Rubbery, old-fashioned food has given kosher a bad rap. We use the same oils and vinegar as other gourmet purveyors. As a caterer, I have a need to please and make people happy. Over food, adults share stories — even in sad times like shiva. I take pride in every meal and make it a gorgeous experience.”

Bank thanked her staff, then confided, “Some say I am not always easy to work for.”

Honoree Sandra Bank (left) received praise from Dassie New and Rabbi Yossi New at the Kosher Food & Wine Atlanta festival. (Photo by Bonnie Moret)

Honoree Sandra Bank (left) received praise from Dassie New and Rabbi Yossi New at the Kosher Food & Wine Atlanta festival. (Photo by Bonnie Moret)

Those at the top of their craft rarely are.

“Everyone has their own Sandra story,” Rebbetzin Dassie New said. “She has such grace. Sandra has elevated kosher to a new level in Atlanta.”

Rabbi Yossi New, the head of Chabad of Georgia, complimented the crowd for raising $120,000. He said the Atlanta area now has 15 Chabad centers. “The secret of Chabad doesn’t take 400 pages to explain. We are passionate and believe deeply in what we are doing.”

Rabbi Isser New, Rabbi Yossi New’s son and one of the kosher festival’s organizers, said: “Bringing the community together for this food is a real mitzvah. As Chabad celebrates 30 years in Atlanta, this exemplifies our impact. It is said that the growth of a Jewish community can be measured by the growth of its kosher observance.”

The sponsors enjoyed a private reception with fabulous dishes an hour before the main event, and praise came from around the room.

“Sandra gives the host confidence as she keeps everyone calm, and it turns out perfectly,” Mark Lichtenstein said.

“I’m a healthy eater and love the quinoa salad,” Faye Lefkoff said.

“I have used Sandra for several events. I think what she has done here with the slice marrying sushi-grade tuna with pizza and jalapeños is cool,” Angie Weiland said.

Photo by Marcia Caller Jaffe University of Georgia Chabad Rabbi Michoel Refson and his wife, Chana, attend the festival with student Megan Maziar.

Photo by Marcia Caller Jaffe
University of Georgia Chabad Rabbi Michoel Refson and his wife, Chana, attend the festival with student Megan Maziar.

The pre-function areas were labeled Sliced, Smoked, Chopped and Torched.

Rabbi Michoel Refson and his wife, Chana, of Chabad at the University of Georgia drove in to support student Chabad President Megan Maziar, who extolled what Chabad means to students away from home: “We discuss important issues like marriage and family.”

Chabad also woos with bounteous Shabbat meals, as my children enjoyed at Tulane and the University of Florida.

Appropriately, then, room after room of upscale food and beverages did not disappoint at the kosher festival. Curry chicken, Thai beef with cucumber salad, desserts, vegetarian corn dogs, the best salmon sashimi (Hotel InterContinental), flavored cotton candy, fruit, mushu barbecue brisket, hearts of palm salad, smoked turkey and prime rib were just a few of the items. Kroger had a sushi station.

Track Seven transformed the venue to a hip scene as aerialists hung from ceiling ribbons and music grooved. Bo Lefkoff, Tessa Shabban and Erin Lis chaired the event.

Wine, Goza tequila, SweetWater beer and champagne flowed.

Jay Buchsbaum, the marketing vice president of Royal Wine, the largest producer, importer and distributor of kosher wine, said: “This evening is a wonderful thing. Connoisseurs can see that you don’t have to compromise … with so many varieties of kosher wines from around the globe.”

Jeff and Carrla Goldstein light up the sponsor party.

Jeff and Carrla Goldstein light up the sponsor party. Photo by Marcia Caller Jaffe