If you were to ask Jay Parker, owner of Ben’s Best Kosher Gourmet Delicatessen in Rego Park, why he has devoted the last 31 years to serving customers in the community, he’d say it’s because of his ethical obligation – to provide thousands of New Yorkers with Kosher deli meats for any and every occasion.
Parker, along with his deli Ben’s Best, is one of more than 14 of New York City’s most elite delicatessens featured in “Deli Man,” a new documentary film from director Erik Greenberg Anjou, which gets right to the meat of how delis got their start in the United States.
“It’s a piece of deli history,” Parker said, after watching the film. “It gets right to the heart and soul of what makes delis, delis.”
This story originally appeared in the April 2, 2015 edition of the Queens Tribune.
The film stars Ziggy Gruber, a Culinary Institute of America chef and owner of Kenny and Ziggy’s delicatessen in Houston, Texas, as he travels around to some of New York’s most renowned delis, including Carnegie, Katz’s, the 2nd Avenue Deli and many others.
According to Parker, of the 1,500 kosher delis that once operated in New York City, only 21 are left. He said the film not only looks at the so-called “meccas” in the deli game, but some of the challenges facing delis in the 21st Century and sheds some light on why kosher delis have been blinking out of existence.
Ben’s Best has been serving customers in the Rego Park area for more than 70 years and is a big supporter of the local community. From their stuffed cabbage to their corned beef sandwiches, Ben’s has been a staple in the industry.
Parker said that if his grandchildren ever ask about the history of the delicatessen in New York, all he has to do is refer them to watch “Deli Man” on Netflix.
If you would like to learn more on the past, present and future of the deli industry or Ben’s Best Gourmet Delicatessen, “Deli Man” is playing at Kew Gardens Cinemas, 81-05 Lefferts Blvd., and North Shore Towers, 470 Grand Central Parkway in Floral Park, through April 2.