by Rabbi Avraham Juravel, Rabbi Dov Schreier, Rabbi Yirmiya Indich & Rabbi Lenny Steinberg
Turning over our homes and personal kitchens for Pesach is an arduous task. Effectively achieving this in a foodservice setting is all the more so. Here is a checklist of items that OU Kosher addresses before establishing any OU Kosher-certified Pesach program:
- Take a complete inventory of kitchens and equipment.
- Determine suitability for kashering each vessel.
- Establish the kosher protocol. Procedures must be recorded in writing and approved by hotel.
- Designate meat and dairy kitchens. Determine if a parve kitchen is required. Each designated kitchen will need completely separate facilities (refrigerators, ovens, etc.), including washing stations.
- Facility must include sufficient space for vegetable inspection and preparation.
- In the event that there is only one dishwasher, only one set of dishes (meat or dairy) will be allowed. Dishwashers typically require kashering with a torch— this is impractical during the holiday.
- Determine access from kitchen facilities to dining facilities. Identify distinct food transport apparatus (i.e. carts, trays).
- Set a schedule for kashering. Each facility should be kashered all together. Facility should not be left in a partially kashered state without safeguards. Any un-kashered equipment must be completely segregated from facility.
- Determine if pilot lights are functional, if igniters can be locked out, if automatic electronic ignitions are in place—to help ensure against bishul akum (food cooked by a non-Jew).
- Determine if there is common use of steam between different kitchens.
- All utensils must be clearly marked before being used.
- Employee eating areas must be completely separate from the kashered facilities.
- Anticipate the operation from start to finish; ingredient receiving, food prep, cooking, serving, clean up, utensil washing. Expect how parallel processing (dairy, meat, parve, snacks) can impact one upon the other.
- Propane torches—large and small
- Gloves—insulated welders gloves
- Charcoal—not self-igniting
- 3 different colors of masking tape
- Aluminum foil
- Cellophane wrap
“KOSHER” ENVIRONMENT— NOT JUST KOSHER FOOD
- Does hotel swimming pool allow for private men’s and women’s swimming?
- Can an Eruv be established around the perimeter of hotel property?
- Do hotel rooms have manual locks or only electronic locks?
- Does hotel have the ability to offer a Shabbat elevator?
ADMINISTERING THE PROGRAM
- Clear scheduling and position assignments to the squad of mashgichim that they may function as a team without leaving gaps in supervision.
- Clearly written instructions to kitchen staff and servers, with kashruth protocols that workers will typically be completely unfamiliar with. Those must address segregation of foods and utensils to their designated kitchens, use of materials only following mashgiach approval, and restrictions against bishul akum. Workers must also understand the basic restrictions that relate to Shabbat and yom tov.
- All food deliveries must be checked by a mashgiach prior to their entering a kitchen or being opened. All unwashed and unchecked vegetables must be isolated from those that have been approved for use. Approved ingredients should be clearly marked by mashgiachim and only used thereafter.
- Menus must be checked to ensure that there is sufficient time between meals (i.e. meat-dairy, hard cheese-meat).
- All Shabbat food must be fully cooked before the onset of Shabbat. Grinders, slicers, etc. not permitted for use on Shabbat must be secured so that kitchen staff cannot make use of them accidentally or out of habit.
- Food preparation may never commence on Shabbat or yom tov in preparation of that evening or the following day.
- Ensure that when water is added to urns on yom tov, it is done in compliance with holiday restrictions and does not ignite the heating elements.
SOLICITING DIVINE HELP
As with any hashgacha, especially one fraught with so many challenges and upon which hundreds and thousands of Jews’ Pesach observance depends, we must recite a prayer for s’yata d’shmaya (Heavenly assistance) for a joyous and KOSHER Pesach.