Mazel tov! A child is getting married. Your 13-year-old is having a Bat/Bar Mitzvah. Maybe you’ve reached a milestone, such as a special anniversary, or have finally attained the ability to retire. On a more somber note, maybe you have the need of having someone help out with after a memorial service. Whatever the event,-you want to have a get-together that will have more guests than you feel comfortable providing meals for from your own kitchen.
In order to cover the edible requirements of all your guests, a Kosher caterer is can be an absolute must. If you’ve never had an event in which you’ve had to hire someone to do the cooking, what are the critical elements? When should you start looking? What are some of the most important questions to ask and what do you need to bring with you?
If you found yourself nodding at any of the above questions, then this article is for you! Orange County Jewish Life canvassed some of the county’s Kosher caterers to help break things down and make the event you’re planning a complete success!
Before we start, here is a brief explanation about just what Kosher dietary laws are as stated on the site www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm:
Following Kosher dietary law is not just a matter of what foods you can and cannot eat, but also a matter of regulating the method and the dishes used to prepare them, what foods can be eaten together and whether the food preparation process was certified by a Kosher rabbi.
Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not “bless” food to make it kosher.
Kosher is not a style of cooking. Chinese food can be Kosher if it is prepared in accordance with Jewish law. All of the caterers we spoke with feel the very first thing everyone should do is know what the standards of your kashrut organization are. Who is your Mashgiach or Mashgicha (authority on kashrut) and does he or she adhere to the highest level of kashrut standards? On the dairy side, there is Chalav Stam (not specially supervised, but known not to contain the milk of non-Kosher animals because of government certification) versus Chalav Israel (strict supervision).
The following catering businesses/owners contributed to this article: Blueberry Hill Catering (owner Beverly Scheftz), K Kosher Catering (owner Analia Szyszlican), OC Kosher (owner Clive Wolder) and Silk Catering (owner Veronique Belhassen).
Before a client even makes a first appointment, there are things to consider. This is a relationship that needs to be strong, and both sides need to understand the budget, the occasion and what the menu means to the celebrants.
Bev Scheftz of Blueberry Hill Catering feels that it’s important for the client to ask if the caterer has any other events on the same day, can the caterer handle any special dietary needs of some guests, does the caterer provide tastings,and if so, is there a fee? “I also think that you should ask to see a presentation,” she added. “Remember, no matter how good the food is, we all see it first, so the first “taste” is with our eyes.”
While all four of our professionals agreed that clients should make sure that the caterers have had experience in serving parties of the size they require, they also felt very strongly that references should be offered. There should be as many as would make the client feel comfortable.
Veronique Belhassen of Silk Catering said, “I want my future clients to feel as secure as possible, so I want them to go to a site to see what I can do. I want them to have a chance to try my dishes. It doesn’t matter to me how many of my clients they want to speak with as long as they wind up being happy with what they learn about me.”
Sometimes there are questions we may not even think of asking, but they are vital to the caterer. Analia Szyszlican of K Kosher Catering said, “I love to have a client tell me about the organization of the event, who I can contact if I have questions. If it’s a wedding, I want to know who the coordinator is and that the person will be prompt in getting back to me, right up until the day of the event.”
Other things that prospective clients should bring with them to that all-encompassing first meeting are lists of their likes, dislikes, any menu ideas, what their expectations are and, as Clive Wolder of OC Kosher puts it, “I need to have them let me know which Kosher certification is accepted at the site of the function. It’s important to know if the venues have the required separate kitchens or if I’ll need to prepare the food off-site and bring it in.”
Scheftz added, “Or if I’ll need to kosher the kitchen-which means there will be an extra fee. Another thing, will there be another function at the venue at the same time? Because then we’ll need to make sure that plates, silverware and so on won’t get mixed up.”
And while no one likes to discuss finances, other things that need to be ironed out are exactly what the fees will be and what they include. If a cancellation or re-scheduling date has to be processed, what does it cost and what are the refund policies of that particular business? If someone has a very tight budget, the client needs to be upfront with this detail, so that the caterer can make the appropriate choices available.
When should you start looking for a caterer? Wolder suggests that “the earlier you come in and the more time you allow, the better your caterer can set up a menu you’ll enjoy and will satisfy your needs.”
All of our caterers said that they love to personalize menus to fit each one of their clients’ preferences, but for those that have no idea-they have set menus to choose from as well. In today’s electronic society, most businesses have websites that have many of their options and photos available at a click. Caterers are no exception.
Now that “How to Hire a Kosher Caterer 101” is over, everyone is now ready to make that introductory call and get ready to “party.”
Some Kosher Caterers in Orange County
Blueberry Hill Catering
(Ask for Beverly Scheftz)
(Ask for Nina)
Hotz Stuff Personal Chef Service
(Ask for Bernie Hotz)
(Ask for Clive Wolder)
(949) 313-7876 or (949) 870-5006
(Ask for Veronique Belhassen)
Facebook: Silk Cater