Laura loves latkes! Crispy yet pillowy-soft. Salty with touch of sweet. They hit all my culinary triggers. If they do the same for you, come check out the Hanukkah Latke Chef Contest at Whole Foods Market Los Altos on Dec 11th, 7 – 8:30 PM. Teaming with the Jewish Study Network, the event kicks off Hanukkah, which runs December 12 – 20th.
According to ReformJudaism.org, latkes are eaten at Hanukkah because the oil they are cooked in reminds us of “the miracle that a single cruse/pot of oil found in the Temple lasted for eight nights. Additionally, some scholars suggest that the popularity of latkes is due to the fact that the potato crop became available around the time of Hanukkah in Europe.”
The public is invited on December 11th to watch four culinary teams race to create the tastiest, most original potato latkes, and earn the title “Top Latke Chef.” Tastes are available after the contest.
Being the only Polish, Catholic judge* for the evening, yours truly decided a latke refresher course was in order. I asked fellow judge Effie Speigler, Executive Chef at The Oakland Coliseum for some tips.
“The top 3 most important things about making latkes are,
#1: The potato used must be of high starch content. Idaho potatoes work the best.
#2: Use matzo meal rather than flour as the binder. The resulting texture is more traditional and enjoyable.
#3: You have to use fresh oil. If you are making a lot of latkes, replace the oil during the cooking process. Many people like to use peanut oil to fry, but if allergies make that a problem, use canola instead.”
Speigler continues, “I don’t like over complicating latkes, simple is best. Potato, onion, eggs, salt, pepper, and matzo. That’s it. I don’t even peel the potatoes. Clean them well and grate with the skins on.”
Well now…that’s different.
I also heard that a box grater does not create the best results. One very serious latke maker told me to use a stainless steel potato grater instead, which produces potato pieces that react better with the oil. I have never used one of these; haven’t even heard of it. Anyone out there care to share their experience with it?
And if you have any more suggestions and tips for this Polish Catholic, please send them in, and stop by Monday Dec 11th for a taste of the winning results.
I’ll put up the recipes after next weeks contest.
Learn more at
Latke Chef Contest
*Hanukkah Latke Contest Judges: Effie Speigler, Executive Chef, The Oakland Coliseum; Linda Zavoral, Assistant Features Editor, Bay Area News Group, Laura Stec, Chef Educator and “The Food Party!” Blogger, Hadar Harris, former Chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students