SARAH HESSELMAN (1/10/11) 82 year old South African Sarah Hesselman makes the best gefilte fish in the world and until now only family and friends have known about it.  Now you too can watch Sarah in action.  Just don’t expect a recipe!  She’s been making her gefilte fish the same way for more than 50 years and has never written anything down. Enjoy this multilingual video romp into the world of Jewish cooking and Sarah’s comments about life with the late Louis and Cilla Chait who were her surrogate family and employers from the time she came to Cape Town in her late teens from Wuppertal, a mission village in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. When Louis and Cilla died Sarah took up residence and employment with their son Noah Chait and his family. She has been a treasured member of the Chait family for over 60 years. This film was shot spontaneously on a Macbook laptop by Noah’s daughter Lisa. Today Sarah is 87 and living it up in Britstown in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. To contact Sarah or Lisa email

39 Responses to Sarah Hesselman (82) – Gefilte Fish Queen

  1. ABE MEYERSON September 14, 2016 at 12:59 am #


  2. Niki (Ramsay-Chait) :) September 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Mazeltov Sarah! I hope you have the BEST birthday!! I am sure you will be spoiled by Irma and Noah and you definitely deserve it. Love Niki

  3. Wynnie Stein September 3, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    I am making Gefilte Fish as a gift for my dad’s 87th birthday. I came across this video and right away felt the love and warmth ….while I was missing my own mom and grand mom who would have chided me just the same as Sarah…”just watch, I don’t know how much exactly to add!”

    Thank you for sharing this. Really beautiful!
    Wynnie Stein
    Co author Moosewood Restaurant Cookbooks (wrote the Jewish chapter for Sundays at Moosewood Restarant)

  4. Rob Firer February 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi Lisa

    Fantastic stuff. I really enjoyed watching this.

    You doing amazing work



  5. Rifca October 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    The best gefilte fish lesson I’ve had! I wish we could all have a Sarah, we’ve gotta go to checkers 🙁
    P.S. Her grandson is the best hairdresser in town!

  6. admin October 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Sid sent a FB message: ‘Hi Lisa I saw your gefilte fish video on FB. I loved loved loved it.. sounds weird to say.. but there was such a lot of love respect and dignity in that video.. and I really want to now make my own gefilte fish.. in fact next pesach i will try.. all the best’.

  7. admin October 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Len emailed: ‘Hi Lisa, it is brilliant. I think the fact that it is made on a handheld adds a very authentic and spontaneous dimention to it. The retention of indigenous knowledge is important :). Do you have more? Is there a link to others by you?’

  8. Peter October 12, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Hi, I’m so very proud of my darling gran she is a total lady and a friend to many! What an awesome way to keep her memory alive for the future generations to all see! I LOVE YOU OUMIE WITH ALL MY HEART AND SOUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. admin October 9, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    From: Benny []
    Sent: 07 October 2011 11:38 AM
    Subject: Sarah and her gefilte fish

    Hi Sarah and family & Noah, Irma and Family

    What a thrill to see Sarah captured on film after all these years. I remember you all so well as a youngster more than 50 years ago!!!! You were my downstairs neighbours. I also remember Louis and Cilia z`l and their jewelery shop in Darling Street. Yes, Benny here, Solly`s brother. I also recall playing “bus bus” and “fire engines” with Charlie where both of us pretended we were bus or fire engine drivers. Those were the days, so carefree, and gone so very quickly. And you all look just the same. How do you do it? Maybe I can have what you`re having in my quest for eternal youth. We`ve lived in Sydney for 30 years, Karen, my wife, and our kids Amy aged 12 and Daniel almost 18. Karen`s Mom still lives in Oranjezicht. Almost 90, her brother was Dave Meyerowitz whom you probably knew.

    It`s possible we may visit Cape Town in January after an absence of almost 10 years to see Karen`s mum as she approaches the big 90. Maybe we`ll pop in and say hi and enjoy some of Sarah`s gefilte fish……..yum……I can almost smell it through the computer.

    Every best wish

    Benny Kaplinski

  10. hannie October 9, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Hi. I have heard of that meal but never knew how it is been prepared.
    You really gave everyone a good lesson.I am so proud of you.
    I’ve shown it to all my visitors from South africa.
    All the best.
    We love you

  11. cynthia October 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Cynthia emailed: ‘Thnx so much for sending me the Gefilte fish story. Gosh did I love it. it brought so many beautiful memories of years gone by. firm good old faithful friendships. How my mother wld’ve loved this. Please tell Sarah from me she is a star. A great actress’.

  12. admin October 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    email from Laura in Australia about the Sarah video!: ” This is amazing. That video is going around all over the world! i got it from some random friend of mine and then sent it to my family here and they had already received it from family in israel!! well done to her.”

  13. admin September 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    This is a classic. What a great idea to video this vignette for posterity. Sybil

  14. Abe & Sonia September 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Abe & Sonia from Atlanta posted on YouTube – ‘Great memories of wonderful times.Our Maria did the same thing every Friday. Unfortunately the following generation will have not experienced those times’.

  15. Robinne September 27, 2011 at 11:20 pm #


    You are giving my trade secrets away with these vids! Now EVERYONE knows how to make my recipe…or should I say Sarah’s. Next you will have her showing my (ok..yes…HER) chopped liver, lokshen pudding and tomato breedie (actually those would be fab to have on video). I totally wish we were there this RoshHash to eat her food, rather than me having to make poorer versions of the original here in London…well at least the sun is shining xx Robinne Collie (daughter of Noah and Irma Chait)

  16. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I am sitting here in a village near Munich having breakfast and watching this on my iPhone. What a treasure…I have never seen that soup made before and you are right it does not look good but I bet it tastes great. What a gift you are doing with your company! – Heather

  17. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Well…..this is called cultural integration. She’s such a character ! Can
    I come for a seder and sample the goodies ? Marc F

  18. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Incredible. Enter Sarah for Masterchef SA. – Sheryl Ozinsky

  19. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    This is so lovely. I watched it twice and made the whole family watch it, she’s fantastic. I love the way she launches into a whole role play of master and madam fighting over keys in the middle of the show, its great! (I’d love to taste some!) – Miki Redelinghuys

  20. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    The best accent and jargon and convo and teacher of gefilte fish ever!!! Lauren

  21. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    This is fantastic. I am sending it to Israel, Johburg and Australia. Shea

  22. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    This is high comedy: it’s gonna go viral. The gefilta fish is not the point; Sarah is a gem. Just incredible! I am not laughing at her – just so homely, natural, funny because it’s true … Stan

  23. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Really great….. you had me spellbound for all 11 minutes, I had
    to stop the production of the paper!! – Geoff Sifrin – Editor
    SA Jewish Report

  24. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Paula – I asked Sarah and she says its to ‘make the flavour’ – Lisa

  25. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Lisa,

    I love Sarah’s Gefilte Fish movie, but I have a question ……. why doesn’t she take the bones and skin [called “goeters” in my mom’s recipe book!] out of the stock before putting the fishballs into the pot? My days of making Gefilte Fish are long gone, but the taste of Cape Gefilte Fish will always be there.
    Thanks for a great memory of a wonderful tradition. – Paula

  26. admin September 27, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    ‘This is absolutely brilliant. I have just showed to my staff who all have to make Gefilta Fish HOW TO REALLY MAKE IT’ – Lynne

  27. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Rob Gluckman posted on facebook – ‘The perfect sunday morning ‘fix’. Has put me in a great mood for the rest of the day. Thanks Sarah. p.s. save one for me!!’

  28. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Talila Eylon posted on Facebook – ‘ A series would be great. She is a character, isn’t she?’

  29. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Oded Schwartz posted on Facebook – ‘Bless you darling for recording the divine Sarah. I have a wonderful recorded conversation with her. Give her a big hug. Do you have any more food records?’

  30. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Ivan Gluckman posted on Facebook – ‘You now have to film her making her curry chicken (the one when the Chait’s were away and I house-sat). strong, thick and tasty !!’

  31. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Norman Chait posted on Facebook – ’63 years making Gefilte with the Chait families in Cape Town wow’

  32. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Jenny Meadows posted on Facebook – ‘Thank you, Lisa. De’lightful!’

  33. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Tanya Pergola posted on Facebook – ‘Definitely do a series Lisa! Make sure you note the ingredients she adds (e.g. the green stuff…chopped parsley?) Don’t need written recipe that way. Fabulous. I love it!’

  34. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Marcia Schlesinger posted on Facebook – ‘This was absolutely wonderful… loved every minute of it.. just throw it in she says. !!! thanks for sharing this Lisa, reminds me so much of my mama and her jewish cooking. xxxx

  35. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Reeve Lewis posted on Facebook – ‘Great video- just missing the smell! Like Irma in the background!!’

  36. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Galia Gluckman posted on Facebook – “But don’t forget your matza meal….! Sarah is a legend(in her own lifetime). Loved this movie Lisa xoxo”

  37. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Gail posted on YouTube – ‘Terrific video…loved the lingo…took me back so many years’.

  38. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    PKINS19 Posted on YouTube – ‘So many emotions evoked. Sarah mentioning Flower Street took me right back to the medina. We had a live-in helper, Esther, for 30 years until she died. Sarah’s accent reminded me of her and brought tears to my eyes. She made “gerichten” and I picked it up. I made gefilte fish twice a year for some time. Now I buy jars, stick carrot slices in the balls & reboil them in their own broth, with onions & carrots. Not the same, but the memory lives. Your film will impact many people’.

  39. admin September 27, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    zyronk posted on YouTube – “What a great video, also brought back many memories. Nostalgic for Cape Town and the family life”. 

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