Chaya and Yossi Segelman: Our Big Kitchen LA, Food Volunteerism and Gnocchi

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 36
December 23, 2023
Chaya and Yossi Segelman

Food volunteerism is “a beautiful conduit to bring people together,” Chaya Segelman, co-founder of Our Big Kitchen Los Angeles (OBKLA), told the Journal.

Founded by Chaya and her husband, Yossi, OBKLA provides quality meals, made with love, to Angelenos in need. Volunteers attend two-hour sessions, whether it’s an open session, a corporate group or to celebrate a mitzvah. They prep, cook and package food that then gets distributed to their 33 charity partners.

“When you see people connecting on something, which is very simplistic – [preparing] a meal going to someone in the next 24 hours to sustain them – it’s very powerful,” Yossi told the Journal. “It’s not just nourishing people’s stomachs, but it’s lifting up their spirit.”

OBKLA has a dozen recipe items to choose from, including meatballs and gnocchi, as well as dessert items, such as chocolate chip cookies, apple turnovers and scones.  Their gnocchi recipe with meat and vegetarian sauce options is below.

The Segelmans started OBKLA in August 2020, and moved to their current location – Margaret Feder’s Our Big Kitchen LA on Pico in June 2022.  Last year, they prepared and distributed more than 27,000. In 2023, that number will be close to 100,000.

“I love seeing the whole process,” Chaya says. “When people come in, there’s the raw ingredients on the table. By the time they leave, they’ve already connected for two hours, packaged the food and see the complete impact of what they’ve done.”

She adds, “It’s the smells, the colors, the texture – everything comes together so beautifully and with so much intention.”

There are plenty of food volunteer opportunities around the country and throughout the world. OBKLA was inspired by Australia Our Big Kitchen, started in 2005 by Rabbi Doctor Dovid Slavin and Laya Slavin.

“There’s a lot of local food banks, there’s a lot of local food projects, but I think the joy is in getting people together and cooking or packaging the food,“ Yossi said.

Some of these food-prep organizations include Our Giving Kitchen in Pittsburgh, Healing Hearts in Miami, Yesod Ha’olam in San Diego and Feeding the Lone Star in Texas.

However, anyone can do this sort of work in any city or community.

“It could be small, it could be big,” said Chaya. “Anyone has that power of saying, ‘let’s bring ten friends to my kitchen and let’s cook ten meals together, or let’s make a big serving and bring it to a local shelter.”

“They can do this more structured, they can do this loosely,” said Yossi. “They are always welcome to reach out to us and we can help guide them.”

Yossi also recommends checking with the organization first, to see what they need.

“Don’t just make something that you think is needed,” he said. “Make a quick phone call.”

If you are passionate about doing good, and considering volunteering, stop thinking about it and just do it.

“Cheesy as it is, we really can spread light and love one meal at a time,” Yossi said.

Check out Our Big Kitchen LA at OBKLA.org and follow @OBKLosAngeles on Instagram.

Learn more and also get OBKLA’s meatball and chocolate chip cookie recipes on JewishJournal.com.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:



OBKLA Gnocchi


Yield: 10 servings

3 lbs russet potatoes

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 egg yolks

2 tsp kosher salt

2 pinches ground nutmeg

Puncture potatoes and bake in a 400 F oven for 1 hour.

Cut potato in half, scoop out inside. Use potato ricer and rice onto sheet pans or a table. Let cool.

Put potato into a bowl and mix with flour, egg yolk, salt and nutmeg. Lightly fold until dough forms.

Shape into ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces. (Use some extra flour for the surface)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add dough and cook for about 2 minutes. Gnocchi is ready when they are floating.

Use a strainer spoon to remove from the water. Place gnocchi in a bowl with sauce (meat or vegetarian options are below) or some oil so they won’t stick together.

Chickpea Tomato Ragu

Yield: 10 servings

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 tbsp oil

1 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 8 oz can sweet peas, drained and rinsed

1 16 oz can diced tomatoes in juice

1 16 oz can marinara sauce

1 cup water

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano powder

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp paprika powder

1 tsp white granulated sugar

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a frying pan, sauté diced onions in oil until clear.

Add drained chickpeas and sweet peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, stir in.

Cook for 10 minutes. Serve with gnocchi.

Beef Ragu with Fresh Vegetables

Yield: 10 servings

1 1/3 lb ground beef

2 yellow onions, diced

Spice mix (recipe below)

1/2 cup tomato paste

3 cups water

2 1/2 tbsp beef flavored consume

43.5 oz diced tomatoes in juice

salt and pepper to taste

2 lb yellow squash

2 lb zucchini

2 lb carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large oven safe pot on your stove, over medium heat, brown the ground beef.

Add the diced onions to the browned meat; cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add spice mix and tomato paste, and cook for another few minutes.

Add the water, beef consume and diced tomatoes. Cook until mixture starts to simmer.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover the pot and place in the oven and cook for 1 hour.

For the vegetables: Cut the yellow squash, zucchini and carrots into a large dice

Toss them in oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 400 F oven for 15 to 25 minutes until lightly browned.

Serve with the gnocchi and ragu.

Beef Ragu Spice Mix

3/4 tbsp dried thyme

3/4 tbsp dried oregano powder

3/4 tbsp dried basil

3/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

3/4 tbsp dried parsley

3/4 tbsp garlic powder

3/4 tbsp onion powder

3/4 tbsp dried rosemary

Mix together. Makes enough for two meals.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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