Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Programs: Summer 2013 Book Talks

Washington, DC Chef's Table book coverBeth Kanter
Washington, DC Chef's Table

On Wednesday, July 19, 2013, the Lillian & Albert Jewish Museum hosted local food writer Beth Kanter for a discussion of Ms. Kanter's newest book, Washington, DC Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Nation's Capital. Featuring 64 restaurants, their chefs, and recipes, her book illustrates Washington's evolution into a dining destination. An insider's look at DC food culture, it includes Jewish recipes, chefs, restaurateurs, and bartenders. Ms. Kanter also led the group in an informal workshop on writing.

Beth Kanter's Writing Tips
  • Tell a story.
  • Find your beginning —
    beginnings like to hide.
  • Show, don't tell.
  • Ask yourself, "What is this piece about?" Make sure that every line in your story supports your answer.
  • Read your work out loud.

Ms. Kanter's essay explores the symbiotic relationship of food and stories:

I'm often asked why I decided to write Washington DC Chef's Table, a collection of recipes, stories and photos from our city's most beloved restaurants, food trucks and food entrepreneurs. I always give the same answer: the stories. It wasn't just the restaurants or the recipes but the personal connection to the food like the one Danny Bortnick has to the matzoh ball soup at Firefly that inspired me want to write this book. The very first draft of the table of contents for the Washington DC Chef's Table included a chapter about family recipes chef's use in their kitchens. I remember chatting with my editor who was wondering how many recipes I could find for that chapter. Maybe eight or ten I told her not wanting to admit that I was I was nervous it really would be more like four or six.

In the end that chapter turned into the entire book.  Once I started talking to people I quickly realized that just about every recipe in the book is steeped in some sort of memory be it of family, place or occasion. Every recipe tells a story. And, as the wildly talented Emily Goodstein, the book's photographer and local daughter, and I navigated the food scene here in town for our book we particularly loved how we encountered so many Jewish stories like the one of Firefly's matzoh ball soup or Sunflower Bakery's mandel bread that in addition to being delicious also helps adults with developmental disabilities learn a vocation.

Download entire essay.

Beth Kanter headshotBeth Kanter, a freelance feature writer, has been published in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also teaches writing workshops and previously chronicled Washington, DC in Food Lovers' Guide to® Washington, D.C. and Day Trips® from Washington, D.C.