Israeli Restauranteur and American Engineer Find New Markets For Leftover Chulent
B'NEI BRAK, ISRAEL AND DETROIT, MICHIGAN — [TheKnish.com] Chulent can be called a passing fancy. On Saturday morning, there isn't anyone who doesn't love the smell of chulent in the air or enjoy sitting down in their "office" after eating a nice bowl of chulent and reading the paper while doing their business. But come Saturday night the power of chulent seems to pass like a cloud of noxious gas. Yet, in these two cities, thousands of miles apart, two Jews have come up with innovative ideas to harness the power of leftover chulent. While many ideas have come and gone - such as laxatives, fiber supplements and breakfast cereals - these two entrepreneurs didn't dispair and now they toot their horns talking of their innovative new products.
Since immigrating to Israel from Morocco, Chaim Al-Gazi has had a very successful run with his restaurant on Kahaneman Street in B'nei Brak's industrial section. His clientele have run the spectrum from B'nei Brak's chasidic community to the secular Jews that work in the Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottling plant across the street. His busiest day by far is Thursday, when he offers a preview of Friday's chulent. "You can just feel it in the air," says Moshe Gribetz, a worker in the Coke Plant. "It's as if a powerful force is pulling you into the restaurant." Sometimes the demand is so strong that Mr. Al-Gazi has a line out the door. But over time, Mr. Al-Gazi has learned that there are only two real truths about chulent: You always wind up making too much and nobody will touch it come Sunday morning.
For years Al-Gazi has been trying alternative uses for his leftover chulent, so that it wouldn't go to waste. He first tried donating it to a local homeless shelter. After a few months of success, neighbors called in a gas leak one Sunday and the shelter was forced to close its doors. He then turned to the local Tomchei Shabbos - a group that provides food for the needy - who said they were willing to take anything else but chulent - which they already had up to their ears from kiddush leftovers. It was then and there that Al-Gazi got the idea for Chugas - the chulent energy bar.
Al-Gazi went to work. After several weeks of experimentation, he came up with his formula. Working with some local food manufacturers, Al-Gazi has started to produce the bars and will shortly begin selling them on the local market in Israel. He has also engaged the Dutch marketing firm of Fard van Toot to help market the bars abroad. "This product is going to explode all over Europe" says Fard van Toot, the founder of the firm. "If only we had this product in time for Torino, we could have made a big stink about it at the Olympics. I am sure if we gave it to the Dutch speed skating team it would have given them the extra gas to win Gold!" he added.
Although the bars weren't ready in time for the olympics, Al-Gazi has been trying to garner endorsements from various sports teams. Already signed on is the Dutch speedskating team. "If only we had this at the Olympics," said Coach Skaaten von Fasten, "We would have easily blown by the competition and our fans in the stands would have been tooting a new tune!" referring to the Dutch fans custom of making music in the stands during speed skating matches. Al-Gazi is now supplying his bars to the Mexican National Baseball team at the World Baseball Classic. "You can feel its power in the dugout," said one anonymous member of the Mexican squad.
Halfway around the World from Al-Gazi, in Detroit, Michigan, Chaim Bigshitzer has a much better idea for harnessing the energy of chulent - turn it into gas (uh, for your car). Bigshitzer, an engineer for Ford Motor Corp., was tasked to come up with a flexible fuels program similar to rival GM's "Go Yellow" campaign, which produces cars that run on fuels derived from corn. His answer, Ford's "Go Brown" campaign, which uses fuels derived from chulent. In his lab in nearby Dearborn, Bigshitzer has been conducting experiments. So far he has found that if you leave the chulent an extra day, it increases potency by 20%! He expects to have a Chulent-Refined-Alcohol-Powered Plant engine (CRAPPE, for short) in place by the end of this year. "So far," says the 28 year-old engineer, "the hardest thing is getting enough chulent for my experiments." Bigshitzer says that he spends a good portion of the day on Sunday collecting chulent from friends and neighbors in the Jewish neighborhoods of Southfield and Oak Park. If things go as planned, we might see a CRAPPE-powered Mustang in the not so distant future. Bill Ford, Ford Motor's Chariman has gone so far to say that, "CRAPPE is the future of Ford. We expect to build hundreds of thousands of CRAPPE cars between now and 2012."
Thanks to the efforts of Al-Gazi and Bigshitzer, chulent has a powerful new future. While CRAPPE and Chugas are still in their early stages, they already smell like winners.
Yonah Wolf will not eat chulent after shabbos (okay, maybe on Sunday, if there's nothing else in the house) but he does blog during the week at http://www.paymykidstuition.com/.
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