Rabbi Chaim Fogelman sat down with Rabbi Naftali Marrus, who managed to squeeze in some time for Kosher Spirit despite his very busy schedule of visiting restaurants & catering establishments in the tri-state area and beyond.
KS: Tell us about how the OK set up the Yankee Stadium kosher food program.
RNM: It was a challenge to properly set up the kosher program at Yankee Stadium, though we were involved even before construction of the new stadium was complete and were advising the Yankees food service division on how best to design an efficient, designated kosher kitchen. There is also a lot of non-kosher food served at the stadium and the Yankees have a rigid protocol of how things are to be done, including how food is served, stored, ordered, presented, etc. To ensure that kosher food and equipment would be completely segregated, a lot of work and thought went into how to best set everything up and how to comply with Yankee protocol — which actually enhanced the kosher program!
KS: That sounds like a lot of work. How many mashgichim does the OK have at a typical Yankee game?
RNM: We have six or seven mashgichim per game, plus one runner. A mashgiach has to be at each concession stand at all times, along with at least one other food service worker. The runner fills in for any mashgiach that has to step away from his post for a minute.
KS: So you really have your bases covered (no pun intended of course)! How is all the kosher food prepared and delivered to the concession stands?
RNM: There are four concession stands, plus the private and exclusive Legends section. All of the food for the concession stands is prepared before the game and brought in sealed hot boxes that the mashgiach opens at the stand. (Some mashgichim arrive at 5:00a.m. for a day game and some leave at 12:30a.m. after a night game). The mashgiach has a log-sheet to check that everything in the box is on the list. This requires extensive preparation and planning because if the stand runs out of food during the game, no more food will be delivered during the game to that particular stand.
All of the meat is Chassidishe shechita and all rolls are hamotzi and Pas Yisroel. Cups are also provided for washing the hands and there are separate ketchup and mustard packets so kosher consumers don’t even have to go to the regular condiment stands. The kosher kitchen is on a separate floor from the non-kosher kitchens and is closed and sealed by OK personnel when not in use. All concession stands and equipment are likewise stored in a designated and sealed warehouse when not in use. No kosher food is available on Shabbos or Yom Tov games.
KS: Tell us a little bit about the Legends section and luxury suites
RNM: Legends is an upscale seating and dining area in the stadium. Within the Legends section, there are non-kosher buffet ‘action stations’ and one kosher ‘action station.’ The mashgiach or station attendant serves all kosher food. The kosher station also has a surrounding glass shield to prevent anybody from serving themselves and accidentally use a non-kosher utensil. In addition, the kosher plates are distinct: square, black plastic, while the regular plates are round, white china plates. If someone wants more food from the kosher station, a new plate is used and the old plate discarded. There is also waiter service to the seating area and fresh, hot kosher meals are delivered sealed with the OK seal. There is a different menu available each night during the pre-game, though during the game there is the traditional stadium food – hotdogs, sliders, sandwiches, etc.
There are unique challenges in the luxury suites because they are rented out either per season or per game. The mashgiach checks the suite to make sure there are no non-kosher utensils or equipment in the room before bringing in the kosher food and hot dog machine. All food is individually wrapped and sealed and served on plastic plates. The ceramic serving platters are always brand new for kosher service. Each platter has a mark on it that comes off in the dishwasher so that the mashgiach can ensure that the platter is brand new. Customers can order a wide variety of meat or pareve meals (though pareve is cold only).
KS: That sounds fabulous! Who is the caterer that makes all of this delicious kosher food?
RNM: Ouri Nidam of Ouri’s Sports Kosher Catering is an Israeli with many years of catering experience, and the exclusive kosher catering company at Yankee Stadium. He has served many famous people (including Israeli Prime Ministers) and was already under OK supervision before getting involved with Yankee Stadium. Ouri pays great attention to detail and knows how to follow OK protocol and satisfy the Yankees at the same time.
The Yankees have provided food service for many years and have a heavily detailed protocol and to establish a kosher program the OK required changes to many items. There have been many obstacles and challenges, but the Yankees have been working with the OK to satisfy even the most meticulous kosher consumer with the highest level of kashrus. The Yankees should be applauded for taking the steps to provide a top-notch kosher program and extending the warmest invitation to welcome the kosher consumer to Yankee Stadium.
Rabbi Marrus and the OK would like to extend a special thank you to: Ike S. Franco, Dan Smith, Mike Phillips (Sr. VP), Don Muszalski (GM Premium Services), Anthony Parnaglan (GM Concessions) and Chef Rolf.