Arieh Wagner

Keeping it kosher far from home – Jewish Chronicle

Keeping it kosher far from home

With a bit of forward planning you can have your (kosher) cake and eat it

Cleaning girolles at the Kempinski Grand Hotel
Cleaning girolles at the Kempinski Grand Hotel 

Food is so central for most of us that we’re planning lunch while eating breakfast, especially on holiday. Eating well – or indeed at all – when you’re away from home is not always easy when you’re keeping kosher.

Unsurprisingly there are options out there to make life easier.

Malcolm Green of Kosher Services Worldwide has been feeding Jewish holiday makers since he took over his first kosher hotel, Brighton’s 80-bed Kings Hotel, in the 1970s.

The grandfather, who made aliyah in 1989, operates from London and Netanya and caters kosher weddings in locations including the Bahamas, Jamaica and Hawaii.

He also specialises in food provision for glatt kosher cruises. “I catered my first cruise in 1997 and have done more than 50 for various companies. We do riverboat cruises in Seattle as well as one in Budapest up the Danube and the Rhine.”

Kosher dishes are full of local specialities
Kosher dishes are full of local specialities 

It is not just mass trips that he caters for. Green and wife, Diane, also offer services to private clients, cooking glatt kosher meals for smaller groups in holiday destinations all over the world, often at short notice. “I was called by a client’s pilot to cook for the client and her guests the next week for two days in Barbados. I said it would be expensive but apparently money was no object. We took over the grill room at the Hilton in Barbados, I koshered the kitchen and catered for 11 diners in a 200- seater restaurant. They asked me to go back two weeks later for their return journey,” he recalls.

Green says that over the years, he has made connections worldwide in order to be able to secure kosher meat for his clients but it’s not always plain sailing. “I had a client to cook for in St George, Utah, and ordered meat to be flown in from a glatt kosher butcher in Los Angeles. The courier company mistakenly took it to a kosher butchers in Las Vegas! It was just after Shabbat went out on Memorial Day weekend, so I had to work hard to find replacement meat. On another occasion, I’d ordered meat to be delivered to Jamaica from Boca Rotan in Florida and the butcher hadn’t filled in the customs declarations correctly. The Jamaican customs officials burned the lot, but I managed to source meat from another supplier.”

Not everyone is on the same budget as some of Green’s clients, but there are other possibilities for a kosher holiday. He lists five options: visiting cities with plenty of kosher restaurants; self-catering; holidaying at a kosher hotel or with a Jewish organisation who deal with the catering; or staying close to a Chabad house, where you can dine in and where they will be able to recommend where to eat. Finally, some may go vegetarian.

For the intrepid traveller, the internet is an endless source of information. Denise Phillips (jewishcookery.com) recommends looking online for the local Chabad house – “My daughter kept kosher all around China by going through Chabad. Be warned though, for security reasons, they are likely to ask all sorts of questions before they admit you. It might be better to contact them via your own rabbi as they are more likely to respond to a rabbi than to you.”

Phillips has managed to self-cater successfully, taking vacuum-packed meats with her and thin, light chopping boards. Or she buys cheap chopping boards and knives locally – something Green also suggests. “I self-catered in Sri Lanka for two weeks and bought disposable plates and single-use barbecues to cook on. We ate plenty of rice, fruit and vegetables and fish,” says Phillips.

She recommends websites like Edgware K or Manchester K to find kosher apartments in popular holiday resorts. “Jewpro is another good site for information. The people letting the flats will check you out to ensure you are also kosher but once there, you will have no kosher concerns.”

Going vegetarian is an option, but not for everyone, and hotels can often accommodate more than you think. “I went on honeymoon to Le Prince Maurice hotel in Mauritius in May 2012 for 2 weeks,” says JC colleague, Ben Grossman. “We’d decided to go vegetarian for two weeks – a big decision, as we’d previously always kept 100 per cent kosher. Then we heard that friends of friends had been to Mauritius and had kosher meat sent from South Africa, so we emailed the hotel.”

Grossman recalls that the hotel’s food and beverage manager could not have been more helpful and, for a supplement of £10 per head per meal, arranged for kosher chicken and beef to be flown from France. Grossman and bride, Sorah, could check all kosher stamps before meals.

“They made Creole curries and lovely Mauritian-style steaks using new pans and (as far as we know) observing kashrut and highlighted the kosher fish,” says Grossman.

At meal times the head chef escorted the couple around the buffet to show them what was suitable to eat, “If we couldn’t find anything, he would make anything I wanted. A few times he used a new pan and made a tuna steak or salmon.”

Closer to home, caterer Arieh Wagner has been invited to take over some of the kitchens at the Kempinski Grand Hotel in St Moritz. “Food is so important for the Jewish traveller, and the hotel has had a huge demand for kosher,” he says. “You can feel like a normal guest and have a steak for supper.”

His team have set up a milky kitchen for breakfast and meaty kitchen for dinners where guests are offered a four-course dinner each night which includes local specialities like a veal sausage cooked on potato rosti with a dark onion sauce which kosher foodies would not otherwise get to taste. They have even created a kosher version of the hotel’s cocktail list.

Keeping kosher on holiday has never been so tasty.

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