The Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut (OVH) is thrilled to welcome Cater4U to the line-up of kosher caterers in our community. Their unique cuisine and commitment to international Jewish food diversity makes them a welcomed addition.
In 2022, Mirit Tall and Hen Tomer met at an event for Israeli women hosted in Tomer’s home. Tall brought Tomer a tray of cookies as a gift and the rest is history. The two women learned that they complimented each other well in terms of their talents and their working style. They have since become best friends and Tomer proudly comments that, “We are a good combination. We complete each other.” Since that first meeting, and starting their business in November 2022, their business has grown very quickly, and they have catered events for up to 200 people. But they realized something was missing.
“We wanted to serve the entire community. We wanted to be inclusive and have everyone in Ottawa be able to enjoy our food,” Tomer says. “Joining the OVH has opened a lot of doors for us and brings authentic Israeli food to more of the community.”
They have found their experience with the OVH to be very positive and have found OVH Director Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum to be very supportive and encouraging.
Jeremy Rosenberg, Executive Director of Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) is delighted that Cater4U will be working out of KBI. “The OVH certification means that KBI will continue to be a destination for events for the entire community. We have already benefited from having Cater4U create amazing kiddush food for our members and visitors following Shabbat services. All Jewish community members can use our facilities, knowing that OVH kashrut supervision is on site.”
Victor Rabinovitch, President of KBI, praised the expanded choices for kosher catering now available in Ottawa. "We are a community with people who travel to many cities and countries. Older and younger local Jews want different cuisines and catered food offerings, both in our synagogues and our homes."
Cater4U prides itself on excellent customer service, creativity, and innovation with food and presentation.
When asked what they hope to bring to the Ottawa Jewish community, Tall replied without missing a beat, “Home.”
Visit their website here: https://www.cater4u.ca/
After hearing the beautiful origin story of Cater4U, it was time to talk to our Ottawa kosher expert, Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum:
Q and A with Rabbi T
Why does a caterer need kosher certification?
We first need to understand why kosher certification is important in general. With the quantity and diversity of food production around the world, it became clear that regimented kosher certification agencies were required to ensure that kosher standards were upheld for much of the food we consume.
For example, last month I was asked to certify an oil producer for their vegetable oils. The process is quite complex; from the extraction of the crude oil, to refining, to deodorizing, and all the way to bottling. The concern was that non-kosher animal fats were also produced at this facility using shared equipment. Therefore, cleaning and kashering the common equipment was essential.
By understanding the process for a single food item, we can now explore why kosher certification is important for a caterer. With so many ingredients used every day, including exotic spices and hard to find items, we require the meticulous watch of the Mashgiach (kosher supervisor) to verify that all ingredients already have a reliable kosher certification or can be made kosher, that proper separation between dairy and meat is maintained, and that all policies all followed.
Why does a caterer need more oversight than other companies?
A good question indeed. To build on what we discussed above, halacha (Jewish law) requires more oversight as the risk of error is higher (100s of products vs a single product). This is why the Mashgiach, has a unique position at the caterer’s and is very much part of the team. The responsibilities of the Mashgiach will include checking leafy vegetables and other items for worms and insects. Applying kosher seals to outgoing orders and checking incoming ingredients for certification. After all this, the Mashgiach is often available to help where needed. Each member of the catering team is there to ensure the best product, with the highest kosher standards.
What goes into making a caterer kosher?
One may think that if all ingredients coming in are kosher, then all products produced are kosher, right? Not that simple.
Ingredients: OVH will help the client build an ingredient list sourced from multiple suppliers. This allows for an easy transition should a product become unavailable from one source, it can ready be purchased elsewhere.
Thinking kosher: Though this may come naturally to some people, not everyone was brought up in a kosher environment. For example, pareve foods items must be completely pareve. This means separate equipment as well as dedicated spices, seasoning, and other condiments. When writing a menu, one must consider how it will be used. If it contains anchovies, we won't use it with meat, if the dish has significant liquid, we won't heat it on Shabbat. It’s an involved process.
Systems: Becoming a kosher caterer can seem daunting, and I'm always impressed when a business rises to the task. By agreeing on clear procedures, we can create fantastic kosher food for the community.
Equipment: While some used equipment can be made kosher through various methods, other equipment needs to be purchased new. Many utensils require immersion in a mikveh, before being allocated as meat, dairy, or pareve.
Trust: Ultimately, it's about the people behind the product, or should I say in the kitchen. This forged relationship hinges on a mutually beneficial understanding, that together we can better our community.
If you would like to submit a kosher question for another edition of Kosher Korner, please email Jodi Green at email@example.com.
For a full list of all the kosher caterers and establishments in Ottawa, click here.