It was something like a ballet of waiters, chefs and kitchen staff on Sunday as 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch female emissaries and lay leaders from 100 countries and all 50 states gathered for a gala banquet to celebrate five days of lessons, classes and lectures in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Mendel Kotlarsky, director of the International Congress of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, chose the New York State Armory on Marcy Avenue because it offered 58,000 square feet of ballroom space, in addition to the 40,000 square feet used for the makeshift kosher kitchen, coat check and baby-sitting areas.
amNewYork went behind the scenes to watch as Jason Scharf, founding partner of Ghost Experiential, and his team coordinated 6,000 or so forks and knives, 300 round tables, 175 waiter stands and trays, thousands of fine china plates, 3,500 preset appetizers and 200 dancing and singing children.
Dinner kicked off with an appetizer plate of hummus, baba ganoush, Asian cold slaw and fresh baked salmon with tomatoes and endive.
The main course was stuffed capon, apple and strawberry strudel, fingerling potatoes and green beans. The smell of garlic filled the large cooking area as chefs used 200 pounds of onions, 180 pounds of celery and 160 pounds of mushrooms for the stuffing alone.
Mustafa Jaffar, a Muslim from Morocco who’s been involved with glatt kosher catering in New York for 35 years, was one of the chefs who helped roast the 18,000 string beans.
“We have three bottles of water, three liters of seltzer and three bottles of soda” on every table, said Rabbi Kotlarsky. “Of course there’s a bottle of wine on each table to say ‘l’chaim,’“ he added.
The food was chopped, prepped and cooked off premises and transported early Sunday by truck to the Williamsburg armory. It was organized chaos as staff wearing all black and holding trays over their heads lined up, navigated the crowded kitchen, were loaded up with food and sent to serve the 300 tables of hungry diners.
For Scharf and his staff, it was nothing compared with some events they’ve produced, including tented weddings for 10,000 guests.
For Rabbi Kotlarsky, there was one wish:
“When they go home, they shouldn’t be hungry,” he said.