Meetings and conferences often present big challenges for those on a restricted diet, with limited menu options such as the default vegetarian dish – pasta with cheese in cream sauce. But when thousands of convention attendees require kosher meals – and a non-Jewish chef runs the hotel’s non-dedicated kosher kitchen – the challenges shift from those who need to be mindful of what they eat to those who need to be mindful of what they prepare and serve.
Nationwide, there has been an increase over the past few years in the number of functions catered at non-kosher hotels, presenting both opportunity and great challenges to F&B teams. Whether properties invest in a separate, dedicated kosher kitchen or utilize a trusted outside caterer, the primary ingredient to producing a successful kosher event is a painstaking attention to detail. The F&B team at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel was recently presented with an opportunity to showcase their ability to accommodate full kosher, multi-day meetings, and they not only rose to occasion, but exceeded client expectations.
In November, The Jewish Federations of North America gathered at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel for their annual General Assembly, with more than 4,000 federation members in attendance. Under the direction of Executive Chef Scott Skomal with assistance from Jon Greenseid, President of JG Kosher Consulting Group in Coral Springs, Fla. and supervised by Rabbi Berel Simpser, the banquet kitchen was kashered in order to prepare and serve food during the conference. (The Sheraton Denver Downtown hotel is currently exploring the addition of a dedicated kosher kitchen.)
Skomal’s and Greenseid’s teams made it a priority to pay special attention to every detail, working tirelessly for months leading up to the event in order to ensure the caliber and integrity of the kosher food. “As the demand for full kosher meetings, conventions and special events continues to grow, so does the need to ensure the food being produced meets Jewish dietary regulations,” said Skomal. “Our goal is to become a known kosher go-to in the metro Denver area, and it’s important for us to remain vigilant in providing clients with a truly uncompromised quality kosher event each and every time that exceeds the needs of our Jewish guests,” he continued.
According to Greenseid, Skomal and his team are on track to achieving that goal in a relatively short period of time: “I worked with Chef Scott for over six months to prepare for this event, and he is without a doubt a true professional, always able to respond to my requests, answer my questions, and take care of whatever came up. Kosher catering was relatively new to him and he took this as a challenge and rose to the occasion. Never once did he question or debate any of the Rabbi’s requests. Scott and his team deserve every compliment we received about the food – and we received many.”
Adding to Greenseid’s recommendation is a happy client with her own glowing feedback. “This is my third General Assembly and without a doubt, the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel is the best hotel I have worked with thus far,” said Susan Sherr-Seitz, Associate Vice President, The Jewish Federations of North America. “I would recommend them for any group, especially a Jewish group with kosher requirements. The team did an amazing job of making everything happen, responding to changes at the spur of the moment, and made it all look flawless and planned. We received great feedback on the level of service at the hotel from our participants.”