Caters are seeing a change this year in Rosh Hashanah orders.
This year, COVID-19 has changed nearly everything in our lives, and the High Holidays are no exception. Instead of going to shul for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many of us are attending virtual services on Zoom and hearing the shofar blown on our electronic devices. The delicious traditional dinners with our extended family and friends are also different this year.
Chef Cari Herskovitz Rosenbloom, executive caterer for B’nai Moshe and owner of Chef Cari Kosher Catering, Wok In Cari Out and Chef Cari’s Street Eats, is seeing a change this year in Rosh Hashanah orders.
Just as she experienced for Pesach at the beginning of the pandemic, most people are limiting meals to just immediate family. “We have many more small groups this year. Instead of one order for 15 or 20 people, they are ordering for two to four people. People are staying home, and they are not used to hosting or cooking, so they want to have their holiday meal catered.”
Julie Herman of Annabel’s and Company Catering, exclusive caterer for Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park, agreed. “This year, we have way more orders, but smaller ones. No one is doing big parties anymore, but it’s almost exactly the same amount of people served in orders combined … it works out the same monetarily.”
Caterers at local synagogues and in the community are preparing for the holidays, creating new routines and procedures to ensure safety standards, and meet the needs of their clientele. According to Cookie Bloom of Bloom’s Kosher Carryout and Catering, who provides catering to various local synagogues, the changes start in the kitchen.
“We are all working in a hot kitchen with gloves and masks. It’s the new normal. We did it at Pesach, and it went amazingly well; we were shocked how smooth it was. Now we have it down; we know how the system works.” In addition, they reduced the number of staff in order to maintain social distancing while they work.
Loss of Contact
The changes, however, are more than what they are doing in the kitchen.
“The personal touch is what’s missing,” Bloom said. Traditionally, “people waited for their orders in the lobby, and did not mind the wait; it was heimish. Everyone always saw someone they knew, and they looked forward to the kibitzing.”
The laughter, the talking was as much a part of the tradition as the food and gathering together; it was the place where friends met before the High Holidays began. This year is different. People are not allowed inside at Bloom’s, and 90% of the orders this year are delivered to the client’s porch. If orders are picked up, it is done with no contact. Clients call Bloom’s when they have arrived, payment is done by credit card, and the order is placed in their trunk.
There is a mixed reaction to these changes, Bloom shared. “Some are thrilled to not have to pick up the order. Some say, ‘Awww, I love coming!’”
The importance of personal connections and relationships with their clients is forefront in the caterers’ minds as well, and they appreciate the community’s support during the pandemic to help their businesses survive.
“A lot of our customers are like family,” Rosenbloom said. She never closed completely; the Chinese carryout was open the whole time and the food truck has been doing well. “We are glad to be depended upon by the community.”
Bloom echoed those sentiments. “We want to thank everyone for their support; they’ve kept me alive every day for the last few months. I want to wish everyone a good holiday, Shanah Tovah, be safe. Do whatever you need to do to stay healthy.”
This year is unlike any other. As challenging as it has been, however, Herman is looking forward to better days. “It’s not going to be like this always. It’s going to get better,” she said. May it be a healthy, sweet 5781.