If our Executive Chef is the heart of our kosher catering business, the mashgichim who work with us are certainly the soul.
A mashgiach is a person trained and certified by a kashruth (kosher law) agency to supervise a kosher establishment like Mitzuyan Kosher Catering. While mashgichim are often rabbis, this is not a requirement. What is required is this:
- To be a Sabbath-observing Jew
- To be a Torah-following Jew
- To have impeccable moral and ethical standings in the community
Why that third bullet? Because keeping kosher is central to the life of an observant Jew. A mashgiach cannot be willing to cut corners or look the other way. He or she must always be alert for errors (honest and otherwise) that can occur during a busy event like a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah.
Notice we say he or she. Our kashruth organization, COR, trains both men and women who want to become mashgachim.
Mashgichim Get Into the Details of Kosher Practice
COR employs senior mashgichim to train the newbies. It’s not easy work for either the trainer or trainee. After all, a mashgiach is responsible for everything from inspecting food deliveries and washing produce to ensure there are no bugs that would render it unkosher. (They also wash meat products.)
The catering mashgichim here at Mitzuyan do double-duty. They make sure our headquarters commissary and mobile kitchen meet COR’s standards, and they accompany us to each and every event we cater to make sure the food remains kosher, meaning meat and dairy are prepared and served separately. Everything from our serving platters to plates and cutlery follow kosher laws to ensure meat and dairy are kept, served, and eaten separately. The mashgiach makes sure there are no mix-ups, no easy task when we’re working on a big event!
I came across a rather endearing blog by Olivia C. Armstrong, a young woman working on her master’s in public relations at Boston University. To make ends meet, she works as a temp with an event planning company. One of her recent posts described her first encounter working with a mashgiach, who was more than pleased to talk about kosher rules with her. Here’s a wonderful excerpt:
“In some down time I had, I decided to be brave and ask the mashgiach what exactly kosher is. Not knowing that kosher rules are not sacred Jewish secrets, I whispered my request to the mashgiach, expecting to be chastised and turned away.
‘Of course I’ll tell you!’ he boomed. ‘There are really only two rules to kosher. One, there are certain things you can and cannot eat. And two, there are certain combinations of things you cannot eat.’
Having been told a million different things I could and could not do when working Jewish events, I knew there had to be more. I expressed my skepticism to my new kosher friend.
‘Well, within those 2 rules, there are over 10,000 details,’ he replied.”
The Nitty Gritty of Kosher Inspection
What kind of details do mashgichim immerse themselves in?
- Verifying that food deliveries are kosher and checking their paperwork.
- Ensuring that meat or fish and dairy products are kept separate at all times.
- Looking for signs of infestation or impurities in delivered food.
- Requiring all eggs to be cracked on at a time and inspected for red spots.
You get the idea. It isn’t an easy job. But as our Boston mashgiach says, “if you love your job, you’re never really at work.”