When Israeli President Shimon Peres came to Toronto to speak at the Sony Centre, the organizers of the event needed to find a caterer able of providing a meal that was kosher and, well, presidential. It didn’t take long for them to choose the right candidate—PR Creative Caterers. But preparing food for the President of Israel isn’t an ordinary feat. The RCMP came to PR’s kitchen for an inspection. From there they took two sealed (double wrapped) meals directly to the Sony Centre. One meal was for President Peres, the other kept “under wraps” in case the President got sick and they needed to test the alternate meal for “irregularities.”
Interestingly, PR Creative Caterers haven’t always been preparing meals for presidents. They’ve come a long way in a relatively short time, and from humble beginnings. However, whether a president or a proud parent, PR Creative Caterers knows how to make any client feel like a dignitary.
PR Creative Caterers was founded by Israel Fisch, a member of the illustrious Perl family (PR stands for Perl, Reichmann-two of Israel’s grandparents’ names), who at one time owned Canada’s largest kosher meat company. Israel grew up in the kosher food industry working as a manager at his grandfather’s famous store known as “Perl’s.”
While he enjoyed working with his grandfather, Israel wanted to further explore his passion for food. So in 2005, he began doing small catering jobs using the Perl’s kitchen. As Israel was beginning to gain his confidence, he and his family suffered a setback when the Perl’s store tragically burned down.
Looking for a way to continue, Israel contacted a friend of the family, Joe Elmaleh for some advice. Joe’s family owned King Solomon’s Table and they agreed to allow Israel to use the King Solomon’s kitchen at night after the restaurant closed and on weekends when it wasn’t in use. Israel recalls the challenges he faced in those early years. “At times we would have an order to make one potato kugel. I would have to come into the kitchen even though I was losing money on the one order because I knew I had to do it as we were building a Shabbos take out business.”
Seeing potential in the burgeoning business Joe Elmaleh soon joined on in a full capacity as Vice-President and General Manager. Joe’s background as an accountant and years of experience in the hospitality industry provided expertise in the “front” of the house, while Israel brought the culinary expertise in the “back” of the house. Together, they were developing a winning formula.
Jobs were coming more frequently and very soon they were too big to be working from the kitchen at King Solomon’s. In the spring of 2007 the PR team took a major step, deciding to rent their own facility. From there, PR began catering some major fundraisers and was selected as one of the Royal York Hotel’s kosher caterers. Joe recalls, “In our mind, the Royal York was a benchmark. That was huge for us.”
But the event that really pushed PR into the spotlight was the Negev Dinner in 2009 with over 1000 people in attendance. “From there, things just exploded,” says Joe.
Since then, the accolades have simply been piling up. Last year PR won a Catie Award presented by the International Caterers Association in Las Vegas (they have been nominated for the past 3 years). “We were the only kosher caterer to be nominated,” Joe added.
One of the secrets to PR Creative Caterers’ success according to Joe Elmaleh is their attention to detail and timing. They set up a fully functional kosher kitchen at the venue and cook all of the meals on site, restaurant style. The day starts at 5am and doesn’t finish until 1 the following morning. The meals are prepared fresh and must leave the kitchen looking and tasting perfect. In order to do this PR has to be able to work well with everyone involved in the event -- from the videographer to the band -- after all, one more song and the meal could be overcooked!
PR’s menu is full of traditional, hearty foods with a modern twist; a high end, tasty meal that happens to be kosher. Or as Israel puts it, “There’s a conception that kosher catered food is not good… but we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people in the non Jewish market who say ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is kosher!’”
A trio plate of a lemon curd tart red wine poached pear and shooter
From the “Trio of duck confit topped with kumquat marmalade, organic greens and heirloom tomato duck stack” to the “Herb crusted rack of lamb and beef fillet with a corn and vegetable succotash and Yukon gold hash cake” PR’s selection demonstrates both innovation and culinary excellence. “We build (the menu) on ingredients that are allowed by COR’s policies,” says Israel. “All of our ingredients are fresh and I think one of our secrets is our execution the day of at the facility. We do not reheat the food, we don’t cook it twice. You cannot put a price on freshness.”
PR is also grateful for the strong working relationship they have with COR. “I think that we have a phenomenal working relationship with COR,” says Israel. “We work together. Both Joe and I are observant and we are sensitive to any issues. We figure out in advance what could possibly be an issue and consult with COR so that there won’t be any problems. I think there’s respect on both fronts. We respect COR for what they provide and they respect us for what we do.”
Moving forward PR Creative Caterers will be the kosher caterer at the new Four Seasons Hotel and will have a menu fitting with the theme of the Four Seasons’ non kosher restaurant menu. They will also be the kosher caterers at the new Shangri-La Hotel. They of course continue to cater at numerous venues throughout the Greater Toronto area.
Through all of this success Israel and Joe have managed to remain remarkably humble. “We work hard, there’s no ego,” relates Joe. “It’s about the food quality and getting the job done. We aren’t about the glamour, we’re about the function. We’re about the success for our clients.”
Whether hosting a large event, or an intimate gathering, PR Creative Caterers ensures that every client receives superb service, fit for a president.