“Houmous is the best thing on Planet Earth,” says vegan influencer set for biggest gig yet

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“Houmous is the best thing on Planet Earth,” says vegan influencer set for biggest gig yet

Ahead of his first TV appearance, Ben Rebuck speaks to Michelle Rosenberg about his go-to dishes for breaking the Yom Kippur fast

Pic: Ben Rebuck
Pic: Ben Rebuck

Ben Rebuck tells Jewish News that houmous is “the greatest thing on Planet Earth.”

The 32-year old self-taught cook and new father to baby girl Goldie with wife Tamara, is chatting about his favourite ‘fast’ foods en route to a TV rehearsal for BBC’s Celebration Kitchen, which airs erev Yom Kippur on Sunday.

He will be cooking live alongside chefs Sarit and Itamar from Honey & Co and executive chef Tomer Amedi whilst special guests Rob Rinder, Adam Kay and Tracy-Ann Oberman discuss their go-to recipes for both before, and after the yom tov.

“Honestly, they just asked me,” he says from his taxi to the studios in Clapham. “They just dropped me a message on Insta and I responded. But not too quickly, as I didn’t want to appear keen. But it was an easy ‘yes’.”

He’ll have about nine minutes to present his preferred foods for breaking the fast: vegan bagels.

“It’s a bit of an ironic conversation – what you would cook on Yom Kippur,” he says. The segment is being done “with respect for the subject matter. I hope it celebrates our culture. I’m very honoured to be doing something with Judaism.”

Pic: Ben Rebuck

For the bagel fillings, Rebuck is making his vegan version of smoked salmon and cream cheese, and a chopped liver. “Ashhenzai staples,” he adds.

“The beginning and the end are as important as the fast. Jews like to make everything about food even when we can’t eat it.”

On exactly how he goes about making them, he jokes that “you’ll have to tune in on Saturday” before admitting that the ‘salmon’ is made from carrots, the cream creese from tofu and chopped liver is mushroom and tofu as the egg.

“They’re tried and tested,” Rebuck says. “I’ve been making them for years; served them at vegan Jewish supper clubs early this year.”

Pic: Ben Rebuck

He’s at pains to clarify that he’s not a chef. “I’m a self taught home cook. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, from watching TV shows, a bit like the one I’m going on. Whether it was Jamie, Gordon, Nigel Slater. Literally, anyone who was on TV.”

He loves having people over to eat and says “from social media I was able to turn my hobby into a career by making recipes that are easy to follow.”

BensVeganKitchen on Instagram boasts 205k followers, whilst his Tiktok account has more than 110k with 1.8 million ‘likes’.

Pic: BBC

Rebuck became vegan whilst living in Tel Aviv between 2015 and 2018. Wife Tamara isn’t; she tried for a while but “didn’t find it sustainable”.

“She missed cheese and during pregnancy she wanted to make sure she was eating everything for the health of the baby.”

It’s less about being meat-free to Rebuck that it is about “helping other people do it. That what I’m more passionate about doing.”

It might not be traditional but he normally brings in the fast “on some sort of pasta. It fills me up, the carbs keep me going for the longest; we break the fast with honey cake, using agave for the honey, a cup of tea, then bagels.”

Rebuck isn’t on a mission to convert anyone.

“My thing is I can’t tell you want to do with your life and I won’t say you need to do this because I do this. I’m giving people the tools and opportunities. I make food. Vegan food is food. The food is still delicious. If I told you the number of things I can eat, it would be longer than the foods that I can’t eat. It’s a shift of persecptive. It’s something for everyone. I must prefer when a meat eater eats my food and likes it rather than a vegan. I am to please.

As he signs off and heads into the studio, he shares that with absolute certainty, his last meal would be “a bowl of humous from Hummus Hakerem, a little place in Tel Aviv with some fresh pitta, bit of hot sauce and onion. I’m salivating just talking about it. It’s the proper megillah,”

  • Ben Rebuck will be on BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen this weekend on their Yom Kippur celebration kitchen special on SUNDAY at 10:30am on BBC1.
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