Feeding Limmudniks is like catering biggest simchah ever


One of the biggest logistical challenges at the Limmud conference is the task of feeding thousands of people three times a day.

Satisfying hungry Limmudniks requires the largest kosher catering contract in Europe.

This year the job falls for the first time to Manchester firm Celia Clyne Banqueting. The company won the deal to cater Limmud after Jason Millan’s long-running stint came to an end.

With around 2,500 people expected to attend the conference, and the vast majority staying in on-site accommodation, Celia Clyne will provide more than 30,000 meals throughout the week.

Director Mark Clyne explained: “Every meal is effectively the equivalent of running 10 functions at once. For a wedding or barmitzvah we might cater for 200 people — here it will be around 2,000 people at each meal time.

“In theory it’s just the same as doing a normal job, but with 10 times the staff, chefs, ingredients and so on.”

The demands of the project mean Mr Clyne will be working at the Warwick University venue for almost a fortnight. He arrived on Monday to begin setting up, but said preparations had been ongoing for months.

“It’s all about planning. If you plan everything accurately, then all the meals should go out fine. I’m not worried about that aspect at all,” he said. “We have been preparing from the moment we got the contract. We have been on the case ever since.”

From the moment volunteers and participants arrive in time for Shabbat this Friday, the Clyne team will be responsible for serving meals in locations around the campus. Among the options will be a family restaurant providing milky meals, a meaty restaurant, and an evening burger bar which will also serve hot dogs.

“There will be lots of variation. Of course, we will also provide tea and coffee all day. We need huge bottles of drinking water. It is a round-the-clock task to look after people’s needs,” Mr Clyne said.

Limmud’s volunteer-led process means participants will take charge of aspects such as queue management and tidying at food areas.

Mr Clyne said: “Hopefully people will come away having had a good dining experience. There will be a lot more food available during the day, and we also have the bonus of being there for New Year’s Eve — there will be something special on offer then. We are geared up and it’s very exciting.”

Limmud co-chair Jonathan Robinson said keeping conference-goers well fed was a unique challenge. “When we tendered out the contract no one had the experience of anything on this scale.

“It’s never going to be perfect because you are feeding so many people on a budget and in conditions that are not ideal. The hardest meal is lunch and trying to guess what people want. But we think we have got it right this year. We have a good balance in menus.

“And after all, you are not coming for the food — you are coming to learn. People have reasonable expectations.”

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