Our Leadership Development Program (LDP) members aren’t just good at playing basketball….they can also cook! During the LDP kickoff event back in December, LDP participants gave suggestion of what events they wanted to see happen and Master Chef was a top priority for them. This week, they proved their skills in a PeacePlayers-run Master Chef competition.
In a nutshell, Master Chef is a cooking competition to see who is the best chef. For this LDP event, we wanted to make it a special cultural experience, so we had each Master Chef group prepare their meal in a house of an LDP member. We had four houses hosting our four LDP teams: two Palestinian and two Jewish homes. What was wonderful about the LDP Master Chef was that each team collaborated on the traditional dishes they wanted to make together. This, of course, was a competition so they kept it in mind to think about the presentation, creativity, and taste.
I want to put things in context here — In divided Jerusalem, between East and West, it’s almost unheard of to have youth from both sides interact regularly and build meaningful relationships. It’s even more uncommon to visit each other’s home. It’s beautiful to see our PeacePlayers members open their homes to their friends and transcend the divides found here.
Neta, a Jewish Israeli member of PeacePlayers for 5 years from Moshav Ora who hosted a team at her home said, “We are always talking about each other’s cultural foods, so it was nice to finally taste it!” The team at Neta’s house faced some challenges and had a couple last minute cancelations so it was essentially Neta and Aysha, from Beit Safafa, creating their entire main dish and dessert in two and a half hours! And let me tell you, they pulled it off flawlessly. “It was special for me to invite Aysha into my home, and even though if was not the first time, this time it was very special because we created something together and I saw how great our relationship is even off the court. Our great relationship on the court eventually led to an even better relationship off the court. We worked great together!”
The reality TV show Master Chef is full of obstacles for the chefs to overcome. The same goes for PeacePlayers…except ours weren’t necessarily planned. Duha, a Palestinian member of PeacePlayers for nearly 9 years from Bait Safafa, hosted a group of LDP members at her home. As they were preparing maqloba, wraq dwali, and a side salad (all traditional Palestinian cuisine), the electricity just goes out! They had to go outdoors and prepare parts of the meal using the remaining sunlight. Yet, their dish was phenomenal! Maqloba, literally meaning upside down, is a dish of rice, chicken, eggplant, and cauliflower all cooked together. At the end, the dish is presented by taking a tray placing it on the top of the pot and then flipping the pot. Their side dish was warq dwali, which is stuffed grape leaves. For Duha, “it was fun to learn how to cook these traditional foods. I really enjoyed how we all split the work between us and worked to a common goal. Even more so, we had to trust each other to do our best in our work.”
The atmosphere as all the teams arrived to the hall with their food was amazing! Everyone there was excited to present their food, and their hard work, to the judges and to see what their friends had made. I can say personally, it was an eclectic meal that left me with a wonderful food coma. I was more than surprised by the professional level of our LDP members! Let’s hope we do this again next year!