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Passover Catering for Restaurants: Four Questions...and Answers.

Children across the globe will soon be asking why the Passover meal is different from all other meals. And as many families prepare for what could be their first normal sedar in four years, the numbers around the 'pesach' table could be overwhelming. Hosting Passover has never been one for the faint of heart, and for many younger families with small children that might be hosting this not-so-basic meal for the first time, having their hands full would be an understatement.

To help families face the challenge of feeding a crowd and maintaining even a modicum of organization, restaurants that offer Passover dinners and catering could be the answer to their prayers. Whether it be a few sides, kosher-for-passover desserts, or a full-course dinner, any help will be much appreciated as the days leading up to the holiday draw near. So, if you’ve found yourself asking the same questions about why Passover is different from other holidays, we’ve put together this guide to help you prepare.

Four Frequently Asked Questions for a Perfect Passover Seder

Since ancient times, the Passover Seder has begun with the children at the table asking four questions and the adults answering in sequence. The question-answer session tells the story of what makes Passover different from all other nights. For restaurants, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the holiday before tackling this special occasion.

Restaurants already catering to the kosher community are already knowledgeable about the holiday and all of its accouterments, but if you’re not quite as familiar but still want to offer a Passover menu at your restaurant, here is a guide to the holiday.

1. What is Passover?

Passover, or Pesach, is celebrated by Jews every year, commemorating the anniversary of the Exodus from Egyptian slavery. On the first two nights of Passover in the US, the Seder, a ritual-rich 15-step feast, which centers around telling the story of the Exodus and very specific foods take place.

Because Jewish holidays follow the Hebrew calendar, the holidays are always at different dated in the US each year, so it’s important for restaurants that cater to the Jewish community to be aware of these dates.

In the US in 2023, Passover begins at sunset on April 5th and ends at sunset on April 13th. *Most restaurants are accepting orders now for in-store pick-up and local delivery from April 4th - April 13th.

On Passover, Jews may not consume chametz, anything containing grain that has risen. This includes virtually all breads, pastas, cakes and cookies. Prior to the holiday, homes are thoroughly cleaned for Passover, kitchens are purged and the remaining chametz is thrown away or donated.

Following the intermediate days, when work restrictions are somewhat relaxed, the chametz remains forbidden Restaurants that wish to cater to the Jewish community during Passover should keep these special menu items available throughout the entire eight days.

2. What does Kosher for Passover mean?

There is a difference between foods that are kosher and food that are kosher for Passover. Many families in the US keep kosher all year ‘round, while other families only keep kosher for Passover.

During the eight day observance, all bread products are banished from the diet and from the home. Because the Israelites didn’t have time for any leavening of bread when escaping from Egypt, all grains that require more than 18 minutes to ferment are prohibited. It’s not just bread, but any food made from the grains rye, barley, oats, spelt, and wheat, because these grains start to ferment and rise when they come into contact with water.

Matzah can be made with these grains as long as the entire baking process is under 18 minutes. And it’s not just the bread itself, but products made from prohibited grains, such as beer and pasta, are also not permitted. Most alcohol is not permissible, but wine that is marked “Kosher for Passover” and has not come into contact with any chametz is okay.

These days, there are many packaged foods that bear certain symbols to identify their kosher certifications. That’s why you’ll see boxes of Matzah labeled “Kosher for Passover” and some that are not. If you are serving matzah at your restaurant during Passover, make sure that you are serving one labeled “Kosher for Passover.”

Alternatively, you may see a circled letter K or U alongside the letter P (for Pesach.) Some symbols also feature Hebrew characters, stars, and other shapes. As long as these symbols or words appear, the food is considered Kosher for Passover.

Each Passover, the Jewish community tells the story of the holiday around the table as part of a ceremonial meal called a seder. This annual retelling includes discussion of the holiday’s symbolic foods with matzo as the centerpiece of the tradition.

3. What is eaten during the Passover Seder?

Cooking for Passover comes with its own unique set of challenges, since anything containing grain that has come into contact with water and risen must be avoided. In addition, Ashkenazi Jews also avoid rice, mustard, beans and other legumes.

Because most of the Haggadah is read before the actual meal rolls around, guests are bound to be hungry.

Despite these restrictions, and perhaps because of them, most Jewish families have carefully passed down an entire body of cherished Passover recipes.

To make your customer’s lives a little easier, we've pulled together a collection of Seder-worthy recipes you can mix and match to create your ideal Passover menu. There are vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free, and nut-free options to help accommodate guests with special dietary needs.

Here is a link to a traditional Passover Shopping List.

Traditional Passover Dishes

Blintzes: Essentially cheese or potato-filled crepes, blintz are a classic Ashkenazi Jewish food that can be adapted to a kosher for Passover recipe by simply replacing the flour in the recipe with potato starch.

Charoset: Before the festive meal gets underway, there are several symbolic foods served at the Passover seder, including matzo, maror (bitter herbs), and parsley, and charoset. An integral part of the Passover Seder, charoset is a combination of fruit, nuts, spices, and wine. Pronounced ha-row-sit, charoset is a sticky, sweet symbolic food that Jews eat during the Passover seder every year. From the Hebrew word chariest, which means "clay,” Charoset is meant to remind Jews of the mortar used by the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt

Roasted Carrot, Apple, and Celery Soup: Roasting intensifies the flavors and smooths the texture of the vegetables and fruit in this vibrant carrot, apple, and celery soup.

Matzo Ball Soup: A classic Jewish comfort food and seder starter, Matzo Ball soup generally features a homemade chicken broth and matzo balls. There are Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup options made with a mushroom-based vegetable broth as well.

Gefilte Fish: A popular Seder meal starter in Ashkenazi households, gefilte fish can be made by hand, but many modern families skip the fuss and doctor jarred gefilte fish by baking it with sliced carrots. Gefilte fish is generally served with horseradish and matzo.

Savory Vegetable Kugel: An Ashkenazi dish, ever-present at Jewish holidays, kugel can be sweet or savory, dairy or pareve, but to put it simply, kugel is a baked casserole composed of a starch (typically noodles or potato), eggs, and a fat.

Pronounced either kuh-gull or koo-gull, this Yiddish name is the German word for “sphere,” and reflects kugel’s humble German origins.

Kosher Lemon and Garlic Salmon: An easy starter or entree option for pescatarians, lemon-garlic baked salmon filet is a delicious vegetarian or pescatarian option. Many families will serve a fish entree along with a beef or poultry option.

Brisket: A super simple Passover standby, brisket can not only be made a day or two ahead, but it's also actually better after a few days. Families have passed down recipes for the seder star, but the general base for the recipe is simply a first cut brisket, something sweet and something sour to use as a marinade (sweet can be cranberry sauce or 7-up and sour can be chili sauce or sauerkraut) and root vegetables cooked low and slow until the meat is so tender you can cut it with a fork.

Roast chicken: Great for smaller crowds or a seder for 2 or 4, Roast chicken is a fan favorite for Passover dinners.

Roasted Potatoes With Fresh Herbs: Passover is also known as Chag Ha Aviv, or "the Holiday of Spring," so pay homage to the new season by roasting potatoes with fresh herbs. Use fingerlings or small new potatoes for a satisfying, gluten-free vegetarian addition to the meal.

Passover Desserts

Coffee Meringues: Instant-coffee folded into vanilla meringue infuses these light, gluten-free, Passover sweets that can be made a few days ahead to reduce last-minute prep.

Coconut Macaroons: The ideal dessert during the holiday, because macaroons do not contain any flour or other forbidden Passover foods, they are the perfect Passover treat for Passover.

Flourless Chocolate Cake: A low-fuss Passover goodie, this allergy-friendly recipe is intensely chocolatey, yet not too sweet—perfect with coffee as a satisfying finish to a fabulous meal.

Note: While all of these recipes are kosher for Passover, each family and community have their own customs regarding what to use or not use on Passover so it’s a good idea to ask your customers what menu items they’d like to see on your special Passover menu.

4. What is a Seder Plate?

The Seder plate is the focal point of the proceedings on the first two nights of Passover. Whether it is an ornate silver dish or a handmade plastic plate made by children, it bears the ceremonial foods around which the Seder is based. The food on the seder plate includes matzah, the zeroa (shankbone), egg, bitter herbs, charoset, and karpas (green vegetable.)

More Tips for Serving Passover-Inspired Meals

While many folks are happy to cook for a crowd, there is likely a segment of your customer base who will appreciate a little help from their favorite restaurant.

Restaurants do not technically need to be certified kosher for Passover to serve some great Passover-themed options. Whether you’re looking to help expedite seder cooking with some catered takeout supplements or offer a complete Passover meal for the occasion, there are plenty of Passover-appropriate options to be found, free of chametz (leavened bread) to offer your guests.

Passover-Themed Meal Kits

Instead of offering prepared meals, Passover Meal Kits are a popular option. Simply pull together traditional menu items like brisket, kugel and matzo ball soup and create easy-to-follow recipe cards for customers to put their finishing touches on. The benefits of offering meal kits are twofold: dishes can be pre-ordered and arrive cold, so you don’t have to worry about the logistical headache of keeping meals hot during the delivery process and taking payments ahead of time guarantees online ordering revenue.

Offer Printable Haggadahs

Creating the perfect Passover seder table can be a challenge, even to the most experienced home chef. To make the festivities even more authentic, consider offering your online customers a link to a free downloadable Passover Haggadah.

For the youngest guests, offer a link to a haggadah coloring book and provide crayons in your orders. Your customers will appreciate the gesture as it keeps children busy during​​ the seder.

Passover NYC Style

New York City has a large Jewish population and there are probably more dels per capita within the 5 boroughs than the rest of the nation in total. If you’re looking for some Passover ideas and inspiration, check out these NYC Restaurants That Do Passover Right.

With two locations in Park Slope and Gowanus, Shelsky’s is one of Brooklyn’s most popular spots throughout the year for chewy Brooklyn bagels, smoked fish, and pastrami sandwiches. With a full Passover menu, guests can order ahead for delivery directly on the restaurant’s website.

Everything from gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and kugel to smoked fish, chopped liver, and an assortment of Passover desserts, Shelsky’s has been making Passover kosher, easy and delicious for customers for years. All ingredients for the seder as well as the plates themselves are also available.

Offering catering and delivery, Paprika in Great Neck has delicious Israeli-style Passover packages for 3 to 10 people plus an assortment of ala-carte entrees like Grilled Salmon, Herbs and Lemon Fried Branzino, Israeli Schnitzel, Kabobs, and Stuffed Capon, and sides like Butternut Squash Soup and Fennel and Mashed Potatoes.

Delivering to Manhattan and Brooklyn, Mile End serves up juicy Passover classics such as braised brisket, potato latkes, potato kugel, za’atar chicken, and cumin-roasted cauliflower, as well as chocolate-covered matzo for dessert.

Though technically not certified kosher for Passover, 2nd Ave Deli has plenty of Passover-themed options including all the fixin’s of a Passover seder including items like potato kugel, matzo stuffing, chopped liver, stuffed cabbage, and furnishings for the Seder plate itself.

Nats on Bank is a West Village restaurant hosting a modern, very non-traditional seder consisting of a three-course prix fixe menu. Offering non-kosher interpretations of seder staples like charoset made with duck confit and poached apple, beet-pickled deviled eggs with whitefish, and kugel fries, Nat’s on Bank’s full menu is available on their website.

A New York City icon, Katz’s offers complete Passover dinner packages complete with gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket, potato kugel and a special kosher for passover honey cake. Katz’s also offers plenty of a la carte Passover items including their world-famous gefilte fish.

Note: Though their packages are Kosher for Passover, Katz's meats are not Kosher-certified.

Offering Passover seder dinners for 6 or 12 as well as a la carte traditional dishes like brisket, salmon, and roast chicken, this world renowned New York staple offers everything needed for a delicious and stress-free holiday meal.

Offering complete seder packages for every size gathering as well as many a la carte dishes, New York’s Russ & Daughters offers pick-up and delivery and ships Passover food nationwide. Seder plates and haggadahs are also available to order.

Mark’s Off Madison

From matzo ball soup and gefilte fish to “my mother’s brisket,” the bakery and restaurant, Mark’s off Madison has an extensive Passover catering menu with a la carte items for pickup only. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance and submitted via email.

Located in the quaint village of Cedarhurst, Central Perk Cafe offers an array of casual Kosher fare, under the strict supervision of the Vaad of the Five Towns and upholds kosher standards and hours. A dining oasis in the core of Cedarhurst’s bustling shopping district and town center, customers come to Central Perk Cafe to relax, unwind, and enjoy a hearty meal and homey vibe. Central Perk Cafe is the Jewish community’s go-to spot for customized Passover catering packages for parties of all sizes, from 15 to 1500.

Contrary to the restaurant’s name, Breads and Bakery, with four locations across NYC, offers a full Passover catering delivery menu - sans the bread. Offering a wide selection of traditional holiday entrees and sides, guests can sit back and let Breads and Bakery do all the work.

By Eileen Strauss


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