How Stephanie Goldfarb pairs social work and good eating
Q: What do you get when you cross a licensed clinical social worker with a social justice champion and the best cook in America?
A: Stephanie Goldfarb, a self-taught chef who is feeding Chicago, literally and figuratively.
Some might say social work and culinary arts make strange bedfellows. But for 32-year-old Stephanie Goldfarb, they go together like peanut butter and jelly. She works as a full-time social worker at the Jewish Federation of Chicago and when the week is over, she heads to Seven Species, her dining establishment that’s leaving its mark on the city in more ways than one.
“I’m really interested in the intersection of social justice and food. That’s my purpose in the world,” she says.
Stephanie has degrees in social work and gender studies, which she considers one of the “last frontiers.” Cooking brings it all together every weekend. That’s when 28 diners sit down to a seven-course meal, experiencing the intimate supper club that is raising money for local community organizations.
“I’m really interested in the intersection of social justice and food. That’s my purpose in the world.”
Seven Species – derived from Stephanie’s religious background and the seven agricultural products listed in the Hebrew Bible – is a novel and increasingly popular concept that Stephanie is taking in stride. “We raise money, support amazing social justice work and feed people,” she says.
Profits from Seven Species go to charities that are local to Chicago, have operating budgets of $1 million or less and provide LGBTQ services, give access to health care for those who can’t afford it; and/or provide services to children.
Stephanie started Seven Species about four years ago, drawing her inspiration from the fancy dinner parties that she staged for friends. In reality, her culinary journey is practically a lifelong one. It started when she was 6.
“I love to cook, especially for people who aren’t paying me.”
“My mother is a fantastic cook.” She allowed Stephanie to “really get into it,” to “tear up her kitchen.”
Stephanie continued to experiment in the kitchen in years to come. And then became “America’s Best Cook” in 2015.
She had set her sights on appearing on one episode. “I tried out on a lark,” she says.
Not only did Stephanie make it on one episode, she won the title. Her success on the popular show and the publicity that came with it helped further her cause. Seven Species has become a “hot ticket.” There’s a waiting list to get in.
Stephanie couldn’t be happier.
“I have the best life right now. It’s awesome.”
Hear more from Chef Stephanie in Cooking & Culture: Multicultural Shakshukah.