Ask The Expert - Northern Valley Affairs
Les Friedman is the owner of Northern Valley Affairs at Temple Emanu-el in Closter, N.J., the newest facility in the family-owned Bernstein and Freidman kosher catering company. Les has been in the catering industry since he was 15 years old, starting as a busboy and working his way up through waiter, bartender, maitre d’, manager and then owner. He has a culinary background and is a trained chef. His grandfather, Philip Friedman, started the business during the Depression, and Les’ father followed in his footsteps.
Northern Valley Affairs has earned a 5-star reputation among clients, and they are often recommended by other caterers and venues not equipped to do kosher affairs. They operate under an old school philosophy of care and service, with an owner and manager present at every event along with a full staff. They do one party at a time, one party a day to ensure clean facilities and seamless attention to every detail of your most treasured celebrations.
In planning a kosher event can you tell our readers what are the key criteria in selecting the right caterer?
Very important is the reputation of the caterer. Make sure they have the right experience in the kosher industry. If you’re looking for kosher or Glatt kosher, the caterer should have the right kind of supervision – a Mashgiach, who is qualified to make sure the caterer will meet the kosher level of the client.
Always visit the venue to make sure the space is satisfactory and up to your standards. Also fi nd out if the place does one party at a time, not two or three scheduled back to back. On a Sunday, for example, some places might do several weddings, and one bride is going in while the other is still coming out. A venue that focuses on one event per day can give it their full attention at all times, and the staff is always fresh and clean.
Another consideration is the kind of space. Do they offer indoor and outdoor areas, and a private sanctuary if desired? Grounds should be beautifully landscaped to provide places for those special photos.
What are the key items that make an event kosher?
The only difference between kosher and non-kosher is the food service. With kosher you are not allowed to use certain food items such as pork products, shellfish, and certain meats, but with today’s great chefs you are not really missing anything. There’s a great variety of kosher foods to choose from, and of course everything should be plated to look good. And if a kosher event is catered at a non-kosher venue, the dishware must be brought in.
Can you help define for all of our readers the difference between catering for kosher and Glatt kosher?
Glatt kosher is much stricter, so the key in meeting this standard is the supervision. Certain food brands that are kosher may not be Glatt kosher. There are some foods that are not Glatt kosher, such as blackberries, raspberries, asparagus, and brussels sprouts, because they contain areas where bugs can hide. Glatt kosher uses only fruits and vegetables that are considered to be very clean. While some kosher clients may choose to schedule an event on the sabbath, Glatt kosher clients generally do not because they are not allowed to use electricity or take pictures.
Tell us about how off-premises kosher/Glatt kosher catering works?
Off-premises the caterer needs to kasher the kitchen, which means go in and make it kosher. Everything needs to be cleaned. Most of the times their glassware can be used, and silverware can be boiled, but anything porous like china has to be brought in. The food and the equipment are all brought in, and everything is always supervised by the Mashgiach.
Are there any steps that should not be skipped when selecting a caterer?
If you want your event to be totally wonderful and memorable, you have to do your homework. Visit the venue, do the tastings, check references, Google the venue for complaints and ratings. Meet the caterer and make sure you are 100% comfortable and confident. Some venues will say they are kosher when they really are not, so you should consult the Mashgiach. Whether it’s a bris, naming, bar/ bat mitzvah, wedding, these are among the most special days in a person’s life, and they should be handled with every care by your caterer. In this business you have to love what you do, and that will show – they will have a passion to do it and do it well.