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Show Us Your Soup! Upcoming Chicken Soup Contest

Charlotte Jewish Film Festival

Ziggy Gruber wants to taste your chicken soup. And he’s traveling all the way from Texas to do it.

Gruber’s career as a lifelong “Deli Man” has been featured in a documentary film of the same name. And he’ll be making an appearance in person at the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival’s 2nd Annual Fan Appreciation Day on July 19. That’s where he’ll head up a panel of professional soup-slurpers that will choose the best chicken soup in all of Charlotte.

Ziggy’s a busy guy. He works at Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston but he agreed to talk by phone and share his top tips for making memorable chicken soup.

“Can you hold on a minute? I’ve got a couple of challahs in the oven.”

Then he explained. First and foremost: “It’s a lot of love and attention.” Recognizing there are many variations around the world, he said, “People will have arguments. Now, great Jewish chicken soup – it’s simplicity, in my opinion. I like to cook with lots of vegetables: onions, carrots, leeks, parsley, dill, fresh garlic, salt and pepper – very simple.

“The key is very, very good quality chicken. I cook with kosher…soaked in salt makes it tastier. Now listen, it’s very hard, they don’t have at the kosher butcher like they used to, the flicker, the guy who plucked the chickens.”

Then he revealed his secret: chicken feet, which he gets at Asian markets, since the feet aren’t kosher. “The feet give the soup a flavor and a richness. Very golden.” And there you have it.

Rick Willenzik is one of the event’s organizers. He explained how the film festival began as a modest weekend event 11 years ago, and has expanded to offer programming throughout the year at multiple venues. Crowds had “flocked” to see the screening of Deli Man in February, so the group scheduled an encore showing – and invited the star to appear in July.

Willenzik said, “We thought it would be great to put on a soup contest of our own as part of the event. Much of the feedback from the first showing of the film was how funny and charming Ziggy was. A lot of people said they would love to go to Houston to meet Ziggy, so we figured we'd bring him here instead!” Also appearing will be Deli Man producer/director Eric Greenberg Anjou.

Two other films will be screening at the July 19 fan appreciation day, Above and Beyond, and Touchdown Israel, which will have its own “tailgate” reception. The events will take place at Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium Theaters. FREE but tickets are required.

Feeling inspired? There’s still time to enter the contest but you need to hurry. The deadline is July 1. For more information, visit charlottejewishfilm.com.

Put your chicken soup to the test – the judges will decide which one is best!