Kosher caterers gear up to deliver Pesach food as coronavirus forces people indoors

'It’s normally a time for my family, but we feel it’s important to do this for the community this year because of the coronavirus'



Kosher caterers — many of whom would be preparing to close at this time of year — are instead gearing up to deliver Pesach food to customers panicking over the spread of coronavirus.

“This is the first time we’ve catered for Passover. It’s normally a time for my family, but we feel it’s important to do this for the community this year because of the coronavirus,” said North West London-based caterer Ben Tenenblat.

He and his staff will be delivering fresh meals immediately before Pesach, as well as offering them for collection from his Colindale kitchen. He is also planning a second set of delivery dates during the festival.

Mr Tenenblat’s menus will include a range of dishes, from the traditional gefilte fish and fishballs to more modern cuisine, including gin and tonic gravadlax and tuna tataki, and includes a fully stocked Seder plate.

He confirmed he and his team were following general health guidelines. “Everyone has to sign to confirm they have not been in contact with the virus and are symptom free before they can enter the building. We all follow basic hygiene guidelines — from drivers to chefs.”

He added that he has a roster of chefs to call upon should any of their team be struck down.

There have been reports of panic-buying at some kosher food stores — beyond the usual Pesach rush with one butcher reporting customers “fighting over meat”.

Judy Silkoff, director of operations at the Board of Deputies, was at Kosher Kingdom on Wednesday.

She said: “I went to do some shopping for Shabbat. There was already a queue down the street at 6.45am. It was crazy with people mostly doing Pesach shopping — the aisles were packed. I have always shopped Erev Pesach and it was worse than that.”

However, the message from Yanai Klein, co-owner of Hadar supermarket in Edgware is to keep calm.

He said: “We are in the process of changing [for Pesach] and will be fully ready by Sunday. Customers do seem more worried. I hope they are not overbuying — some may be — but there is no shortage of anything at all.

"Buy what you would every year and so long as people do not take more, there should be enough. As long as the community acts responsibly there is no shortage.”

Mr Klein added that for those self-isolating who do not have anyone who can shop for them, he is working with organisations to ensure that Pesach food is taken to them.

 Adam Zeitlin, who closed his kosher catering company, Zeitlin & Co, last year, has launched a KLBD-supervised meal delivery service — MyKoCo.

From this week, he and his two business partners, who are both chefs, will be offering 27 frozen dishes — in single or multiple portions — for delivery on April 6 or 7 or for collection from his kitchens in Colindale.

“My father is 72 and has had pneumonia every year so cannot now leave the house," Mr Zeitlin said.

"We want to look after people like him and my elderly clients. Quite a few have already placed orders. We’re happy to leave the food on the doorstep and walk away so it will be contactless.”

Manchester-based caterer Celia Clyne Banqueting has announced a meal delivery and collection service but has not yet committed to Pesach.

“If there is enough interest we’ll kasher our kitchen for Pesach,” she said.

Shaya Hotter of Just Kosher confirmed that they will also be delivering Pesach groceries to a wide spread of areas, including London, Hertfordshire, Essex, Oxford, Cambridge and Reading.

“We’ve always offered this service, but interest is already looking greater this year. At this stage it looks about 30 per cent up, and we won’t be officially open for Pesach orders until Thursday March 19,” he said.

To meet the increased demand for delivery and collection, Mr Hotter will be redeploying staff from the events side of his business — Just Perfect — which, along with other kosher caterers has seen several simchahs postponed as a result of coronavirus.

“We’re lucky that we have a spread of business — it will be a very difficult time for caterers who just cater,” he said.

Kosher caterer Food Story has announced it is closing its doors but it’s not thought to be related to the economic effects of the virus.

Caterer Arieh Wagner has also been forced to postpone all events. “There is no business for now but we have had some enquiries for smaller weddings of less than 50 people, which we can do at The Pillar Hotel.

He, like the other caterers, is concerned for his staff. “We have to see how we can look after our amazing team during this period, so we’re offering to send our chefs (and waiting staff if needed) to make Pesach in people’s homes.

"They can shop, cook, menu plan and do everything for those people who had not expected to be spending it at home.”

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