Kosher Critic: Struggle for civility in the food industry


At this year’s Kosherfest, I couldn’t help but notice that the behavior of many of the attendees was slightly akin to that of your average kleptomaniac. There was the press, distributors, food industry workers or and members of the public that come for some unknown reason it certainly seemed that this year more than others the groupthink was dead set on stealing products (not just giveaways and samples mind you) from the booths that where there to showcase their wares.
I saw men walking down the tightly packed aisles totting canvas bags packed with food. Display booths that had wrapped packages torn open, pillaged by some overzealous Kosherfest goer who felt that he or she needed to stock up for a long winter on gum, jam, or soy sauce. What was truly shocking is that this Black Friday experience was on the first hour of the first day of Kosherfest.
Needless to say this behavior is unacceptable. If these were children, they would be reprimanded without hesitation. Wine bottles intended for sampling were missing from the shelves, likely to be opened at a Shabbat table.
I would like to juxtapose this scene with one that happened this past week at Off the Grill in Cedarhurst. My friend was there for his mother’s birthday with his father, sister, and brother. Their table of five all ordered steaks. Of the five steaks ordered all but one came out looking delicious and well prepared. The “chef’s special” steak came out below par, in the family’s view. It was an overly thin and leathery cut with a superfluous bone sticking out of it. My friend was not happy about ordering what he judged as a $35 piece of shoe leather on a plate.
A polite complaint was issued and a replacement was provided. The manager then appeared. “What would you like me to do with this?” he asked. “You ordered it you should have to pay for it.” The formalities turned into hostility and the entire restaurant was now witnessing their dinner with a show. Neither side backed down. This is how a steakhouse lost what would have been good customers over $8 worth of meat (I am calculating restaurant cost) Steak slice aside, my friend and his party otherwise really enjoyed their meal. I can’t even imagine the fallout from the scene that was created.
Considering these two stories I propose the following. As a food writer speaking for the consumer, I am pleading with everyone in my situation to act like human beings when dealing with the food industry. Be polite to waiters because it’s not their fault your order is late or cooked wrong. They are simply the messengers.
Don’t think that just because companies come to trade shows, it is acceptable to pilfer their stands and treat the trade show like a helpless English village facing a Viking raid. For the love of all that is holy, conduct yourself like adults. Exercise your proper middot. Children are watching.
Now to you, the food industry people. I can’t speak for you but I ask that you be more considerate of the consumer. Treat your customers well. Grin and bear the ones that are pompous abusive jerks because even if they are the scum of humanity they still help to keep your business alive. Don’t yell at patrons in restaurants. If they order something that comes out not to their liking and send it back, go to their table and apologize. Then give them free French fries or desert. I know that seems excessive but I know what your price points are like. Spending five dollars on cake or fries could insure that your $250 party will return in the future.
If we all remember that the food industry and the consumers are in a mutually beneficial relationship then maybe, just maybe, the kosher food industry will end up in a better place. Until then I will bring large red stickers to the next Kosherfest that read “Thief.” If I see you walking around with two bags stuffed with products, you should be expecting a red one on your back.

Zechariah Mehler is a widely published food writer and expert in social marketing. Follow him on Twitter @thekoshercritic