ADDING HISTORY, SPIRITUALITY TO YOUR SIMCHA

Going the extra mile to have kosher cuisine at your next celebration will make the proceedings extra-special. PHOTO/courtesy David Covell

With a push – and maybe even a shove or two – from my dear friends Rabbi Ephraim Silverman and Chani Silverman, almost five years ago my company expanded our event catering operations into a new area: glatt kosher events.

We built a new kitchen facility and purchased a long list of commercial kitchen and event equipment. We invested in enough elegant dinnerware and European-sized flatware to produce a stylish affair for up to 500 people.

We spent hours testing recipes, saying goodbye to butter and cream in our pastries in an effort to produce outstanding kosher cuisine that we hoped would be well-received by the metro Jewish community.

We then said a few prayers and crossed our fingers, hoping we would generate attention and sales in a market that has not always supported kosher restaurants, grocery stores and specialty stores.

What we found along the way is that being kosher is very challenging and requires planning. Kosher is also a way of bringing people together.

But most of all, I found kosher to be magical. After years of producing elegant weddings, mitzvahs, upscale fundraisers and corporate events, there is no greater pleasure for me than to see a large group of people enjoying great food, friendly service and a well-produced special event, and when kosher is added to the mix, the guest experience transcends into a spiritual connection.

The event is no longer just a mix of techno music, elaborate designs and chef-staffed action stations, but a euphonic blend of traditions and customs that date back over 3,000 years. Now that’s a party!

Here are some tips that might prove helpful if you’re planning a kosher event:

•    Check your date carefully. There are lots of holidays on the calendar; some are obvious, and some are not. If in doubt, ask your rabbi, call the Atlanta Kashruth Commission or just call me.

•    Think carefully about a Saturday night event. It’s all a matter of timing. Remember the mashgiach (kosher supervisor) needs to be onsite before the caterer can do anything, which – especially when Shabbat ends later – does not allow the caterer much time to get ready. Thus, your caterer must have the muscle and manpower to pull it off.
Many of our clients have found that Sunday events are much more relaxing and can be as elegant and enjoyable as any Saturday night affair.

•    Be careful about outside food. Don’t let your crazy aunt make her famous potato latkes and carry them into your event (probably in her purse with 50 packets of Sweet ‘n Low). At a kosher affair, no outside food will be allowed unless approved by the mashgiach. So tell your aunt that you love her latkes, but she should save them for Chanukah.

•    Know how it works. Contrary to a common myth, a rabbi doesn’t “bless” food to render it kosher. To produce a kosher-certified product, all of the component ingredients must be kosher-certified, including any equipment and utensils that contact the food.

•    Don’t forget the booze. All wines and liquors must be kosher and are subject to inspection. The Chicago Rabbinical Council website (crcweb.org) has a comprehensive list of acceptable adult beverages.

•    Be prepared. Think about hiring an experienced event planner. These professionals plan parties and other such events full-time (and you don’t). We have worked with several and can refer you to a suitable planner.

Remember, you don’t have to keep kosher to host a kosher event. The life of a great simcha begins at “kosher-ception.”

David S. Covell
CEO, Saratoga Event Group

Editor’s note: David S. Covell is the CEO of The Saratoga Event Group, which manages four special event facilities and operates an award-winning catering company, Avenue Catering Concepts.

By David S. Covell
For the Atlanta Jewish Times