Imagine that you are invited to one of the most exclusive functions of the year -- the National Football League’s invitation only pre-game party that it hosts for its approximately 5000 VIPs prior to the Superbowl. The food being served has been prepared by a team of some of the most talented executive chefs on the continent but as a kosher consumer, you of course wouldn’t be able to partake. Well fortunately, one of the culinary masters who is busy working for the NFL on Superbowl Sunday -- Executive Chef Joan Monfaredi – is also available to the kosher community of Toronto thanks to the Park Hyatt Toronto’s exclusively kosher kitchen under the strict supervision of the COR- Kashruth Council of Canada. For kosher consumers, it’s almost like winning the Superbowl.
The Park Hyatt Toronto is an elite four star hotel located in Toronto’s fashionable Yorkville area. It has had an exclusively kosher kitchen for thirteen years where until recently, it was used to cater kosher events in one of its exquisite ballrooms. But now that the Park Hyatt Toronto’s kosher program is “coming of age” so to speak, they have expanded their kosher offerings to include intimate catering at their in house Annona restaurant, and catering off premise events as well.
On premise, kosher consumers can enjoy a unique dining experience at the Park Hyatt Toronto’s Annona restaurant. Annona is open for kosher service on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and at other times when bookings of 12 or more people are made. Park Hyatt Toronto Event Specialist, Donald Hillis, describes what a kosher consumer can expect when dining at the Annona restaurant. “A kosher at Annona dining experience is treated as a private event. Reservations are made through our kosher hotline and all of the respective departments are in the loop. It is a private event within a restaurant space. Guests arrive and their table is set for kosher, just the same as any other table. The only difference is that the kosher guests are using new Royal Doulton china and cutlery that has yet to be used. Prefix menus are presented to kosher diners that allow them to select between a few different options. The food is all prepared in the Park Hyatt Toronto’s exclusively kosher kitchen that is only opened by the COR’s on site mashgiach. Everything that leaves the kosher kitchen is sealed and opened tableside by your waiter. He seeks your permission to remove your sealed items. This is akin to ‘French Service’. It’s a very elegant way to enjoy kosher. The Park Hyatt culture embodies attentive service, teamwork and courtesy, and every kosher guest is treated accordingly.”
The service is not the only thing that is elegant – the menu is as well. It is created anew each month by Chef Joan and is inspired by her many years of artistry and experience. For example, a diner could begin his meal with an appetizer of seared salmon cakes, proceed to an entrée of grilled rib eye steak, and then complete his meal with a warm molten lava chocolate cake. Each dish is of course cooked to perfection by Chef Joan and her team. To make an analogy, if Chef Joan were a doctor, her diners would be in the hands of a world class surgeon.
Park Hyatt's Chocolate Molten Cake
Dining on premise at the Park Hyatt Toronto’s Annona restaurant is only one component of their kosher offering. They provide off premise catering as well at many of the city’s most elegant venues. “We love working at the Royal Conservatory of Music,” relates Chef Joan. “The Royal Ontario Museum is another spectacular space as is The Carlu hotel. We align ourselves well with other hotels because of our rigorous standards. When we put on an event at any of these venues we have as many as 18 people on my team, all on the same page, who all know what they are doing, working towards making this an unparalleled kosher affair.”
Rabbi Larry Newman, the COR designated mashgiach for the Park Hyatt Toronto couldn’t agree more. “One thing you have to realize about the Park Hyatt Toronto,” says Rabbi Newman, “these people know what they’re doing. They are professionals.”
The same punctilious approach that the Park Hyatt Toronto takes to its food quality, applies to its kosher standards as well. “In the two years that I have been the mashgiach for the Park Hyatt Toronto I have never been questioned. They know that the COR’s word is the law.”
Rabbi Tsvi Heber, COR’s Director of Community Kosher and the ultimate manager of the kosher programs of all of COR’s 165 food service establishments concurs. “The kashrut program at the Park Hyatt Toronto meets the highest standards. Chef Joan’s team treats kosher with the utmost respect and Rabbi Newman who is always on premises when the kosher kitchen is open as the mashgiach temidi is one of our top men.”
Chef Joan doesn’t see COR as simply a kosher supervisor, but as a collaborator as well. “COR has been very helpful,” relates Chef Joan. “We have a very transparent working relationship. If I have a question or Rabbi Heber has a question we call each other and sort it out. The same goes with Rabbi Newman. Our communication continues to improve as a result of our internal business improvement.”
Reflecting on her years of cooking for the kosher community Chef Joan is grateful. “Honestly, I am just humbled that I’ve been given the opportunity to do this. Not only because it’s wonderful for me to see the look on people’s faces and hear them say, ‘Really? This is kosher!?’ But from a professional perspective, kosher is an opportunity for me to be innovative and creative. Take a classic grilled rib eye steak that is prepared with garlic butter. I obviously wouldn’t be able to serve that because of kosher restrictions. So I had to research some alternatives, and it turned out that olive oil works extremely well as a substitute. I take the restrictions as challenges and I find the process extremely rewarding.”
For an elite kosher offering to work successfully it must have a talented and committed culinary team with a passion for food quality, an attention to detail and the utmost regard for the requirements of kashrut. At “Kosher at the Park” as the Park Hyatt Toronto’s kosher program is called, they have all of those requirements – and more. Kosher at the Park has hit a proverbial home run, or in our case, won the Superbowl.
For more information visit the Toronto Park Hyatt’s website at www.parkhyatttoronto.com
Kosher at the Park guests can make reservations with Sarah Meade at 416.324.1479 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org