Where Are the Good Kosher Caterers?

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This is one of my real pet peeves. Plain and simple: there are not very many kosher caterers, and most of them are horrible.

I grew up in Chicago, a community of more than 350,000 Jews. And yet, for most of my life there were only a handful of kosher catering options in Chicago, and most of them were abysmal. Sure, if you were willing to spend $100 a plate you could have a good meal, but if you could only afford, say, $20 a head, you could count on having some pretty nasty kosher food at your big event. Now I live in New York, and there are way more options here, but even in New York more often than not at big Jewish functions I’m presented with some pretty gross food. And this, despite the fact that Jews are known for our great classic recipes and our homey kitchens.
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My guess is that bad kosher catering comes from three basic problems:

Kosher caterers pay through the nose for kosher certification. It can cost seriously big bucks to have someone stand around and make sure there are no bugs in your lettuce. As a result, there isn’t as much money left over for ingredients and paying for good chefs.

There isn’t that much competition. None of the caterers are that good, and none of them are cheap, so no one is forcing anyone else to get better or cheaper.

For some insane reason, no one seems to be complaining. It’s like people have just decided that this is the way kosher food has to be–crappy and bland–and there’s nothing they can do about it.

But why, people, why?? One of the top five reasons I can’t get excited about the possibility of marriage right now? I can’t think of a kosher caterer I would like to use for my wedding. I’d seriously rather do it myself.

Posted on January 14, 2010

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2 thoughts on “Where Are the Good Kosher Caterers?

  1. joel9

    If you think caterers are bad, then don’t EVER ask for kosher food if you’re a patient in a hospital! I was, and I did, and got the nastiest, most fat- and salt-laden, inedible excuse for food ever! Caterers have nothing on the company that provided that junk.
    Joel9

  2. Marcy

    I had a good catering experience with Park East Kosher on the Upper East Side, a bit more money than I originally budgeted but the food and service was excellent, and they even made me some custom dishes that I specified. I would use them again.

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