You may think the food at your bubbe’s seder could win awards, but this year you can actually enjoy an award-winning chef’s take on a seder. Michael Leviton, owner and chef of the critically acclaimed Lumière and Cambridge’s hot new Area Four, will be hosting seders the first and second nights of Passover at his Newton restaurant. There will be matzah—baked in Area Four’s brick ovens, no less—but there will also be roasted and braised Misty Knoll Farm Chicken served with spring vegetables and potato-spring dug parsnip gratin, with wild mushroom jus.
Why is this seder different from all other seders?
While there are elements of the traditional seder I really like, every year it was pretty much the same old thing. We wanted to do something that was much more modern, casual, inclusive and family friendly. Last year we had Rabbi Don Pollock, and this year Rabbi Lev Baesh will be leading the seder. Both are very non-traditional rabbis who are extremely inclusive of interfaith couples and families. It’s important to tell the story of Exodus, but we try to take a more causal, modern approach and to highlight similar struggles happening today, while keeping the night fun and extremely tasty.
How will the food at this meal be different than the typical fare at Lumière?
With the exception of the matzoh ball soup, the charoses and the matzah, it’s really Lumière food: great local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, simply prepared so that things taste like they ought to. Instead of gefilte fish, we’ll be serving smoked, locally caught haddock. My favorite part of gefilte fish is the horseradish with beets, so we’ve taken those two elements and made them into a vinaigrette. We’ll also be making matzah in the wood oven at Area Four. We’ll be serving it at both restaurants for people who go out but still like to keep Passover.
You’re the national chair of Chefs Collaborative, which focuses on sustainability in restaurants. Do you see any connection between your Judaism and your desire to make the world a better place?
I have this argument with my wife all the time. I don’t think my desire to work towards these things is because I’m Jewish; it’s because I’m human. The Golden Rule isn’t just for Jews. We should all act this way. While there is definitely an emphasis on tikkun olam (repairing the world) in Judaism, I don’t feel that it is my being Jewish that motivates me to do the things that I do.
You’re a Jewish chef. I have to ask, why must every chef put bacon in every dish?
Because it tastes great… because I grew up kosher, and sometimes the apple falls close to the tree, and sometimes it doesn’t land anywhere near it. Seriously, if you look at our menu, you’ll notice that we now make our own beef bacon. And every place where there’s real (pork) bacon in a dish it can easily be eliminated. The most important thing for me is that every dish we serve is delicious and is made from food that was raised, caught and harvested in the right way.