I had never heard of the reality TV cooking show "Chef Roble and Co." when a friend texted Sunday night and ordered me to turn on the Bravo channel. As my wife flipped through 400 cable channels trying to find Bravo for the first time, I quickly did a web search to figure out why my friend felt it was so urgent that I tune in.
What I found was Chef Roble Ali trying to prepare a meal for the Chasidic reggae singer Matisyahu and a few dozen of his guests before he left for several months on tour this summer. The episode was titled "Babysitter in the Kitchen," which referred to the mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, from the OK Kosher certification agency.
Chef Roble not only had to prepare strictly kosher meals for Matisyahu and his guests, but the menu also had to be Thai and vegan. And he had to please not only Matisyahu but his wife, Tahlia Miller, who doesn’t appear to be as strictly vegan as her husband, and mother-in-law. [[READMORE]]
It is unusual for such intricacies of hashgachah, or kosher supervision, to be publicized on television in such detail. The OK Kosher mashgiach explained that only he could light the stoves, but once the pilot light was lit the chef could adjust the flame. However, the mashgiach never provided a reason for this — it’s because of "bishul akum," the prohibition on having a non-Jew cook food for Jews.
The mashgiach was shown as well painstakingly checking each mint leaf for bugs.
There were some uncomfortable events as the catering crew prepared for the sit-down plated dinner. When crew members opened the boxes with the kosher plates, they found that each one was either chipped or dirty (Chef Roble claimed that he found human hair, exclaiming, "There was DNA on those plates."). Nice!
The chef and his team, including subcontracted servers who had to be dressed modestly, pulled off the dinner for Matisyahu and his guests. Everyone seemed pleased with the vegan Thai food that was prepared with the babysitter mashgiach in the kitchen — except perhaps for Matisyahu’s wife, who claimed there wasn’t enough sauce.
The meal ended with a food and wine fight, with Matisyahu throwing a glass of water into his mother-in-law’s face, and the event planner being hoisted in a chair.
Bottom line: The food may have been good, but I don’t think Matisyahu, his family or mashgichim were well represented. He would have been better off turning down Bravo’s offer to film the event and instead just dipped into his own pocket to pay the famous chef to cater.
Rabbi Jason Miller is the director of the Kosher Michigan certification agency. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rabbijason