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by Liz Safirstein Leshin

Suzanne Tracht & Racelle Rosett: The Ultimate Seder — Food and Storytelling to Understand Who We Are

Chef Suzanne Tracht, a Fine Dining Hall of Fame inductee, grew up in Phoenix, where her family kept kosher and held their seder around the (well-dressed) family ping pong table.

“I’ve always wanted to create a restaurant where there’s a sense of community and neighborhood,” says Tracht, something she has achieved with a loyal following at her high-end L.A. steakhouse, Jar. A tight-knit group of people enthusiastically return for the seder she has held every year since the restaurant opened 12 years ago. Tracht serves Pesach comfort food with a twist, matzo ball soup with lemongrass  simultaneously just like and unlike what Bubbe used to make. Contrella Patrick Henry, a gospel soloist, often comes and sings Go Down Moses. And award-winning television writer Racelle Rosett, of “thirtysomething” and “Blossom,” leads the service. (She’s familiar to Lilith readers as the winner of last year’s fiction contest, and from her book Moving Waters, reviewed here.) “I love Passover,” Rosett said, “because what is the seder but a giant important story?”

Tracht offers her faithful seder-goers something else each year, the chance to donate to Mazon (the organization whose mission is “A Jewish Response to Hunger”). “It’s a really nice thing to do for the customers who support us all year long.” That’s right. It’s nice to give her customers a chance to do tikkun olam. But not surprising from a restaurateur who donates her time to innumerable charitable events, including a longtime partnership with SOVA (a Hebrew word meaning “eat and be satisfied”), a community food and resources program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. In 2009 Tracht donated to SOVA her $10,000 prize from successfully placing on Bravo’s show “Top Chef Masters.”