How an Ottawa convention centre made its kitchen kosher for a day

A rabbi walks into a kitchen with a blowtorch…

It sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s actually the start of the process of kosherizing a kitchen.

It’s Sunday morning and the kitchen staff at the Infinity Convention Centre in Ottawa are stepping around their own kitchen carefully.

Not just because there’s a blowtorch-wielding rabbi walking around, but because they’re hosting their first-ever kosher event and are unsure what they can and can’t use.

“It changes everyone’s workflow because at some point everything becomes muscle memory, you reach for a pan in a certain spot, it’s not there anymore,” said executive chef Jason Peters.

Peters admits it’s like retraining everyone for one event that will serve 650 kosher meals.

While Peters gives instructions to his cooks, Rabbi Levy Teitelbaum of Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut runs the blue flame over a stainless steel prep table.

It’s the modern way of carrying out a 3,300-year-old tradition of purifying cooking surfaces and instruments so they are kosher.

“Metal is porous and we [have to] extract [what’s] within the pores of the metal so that it can be used for kosher cooking,” Teitelbaum said.

He said he can kosherize most equipment in the kitchen — either with the blowtorch or by boiling it in a scalding hot pot, but the equipment needs to have been set aside for 24 hours before the process can start.

That’s when they hit a snag.

Peters calls Teitelbaum over as his crew is getting ready to chop vegetables, but the knives were used the night before so they can’t be used now.

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