Please! Please! Put these in the big “hub” airports post haste!!! There is nothing like being stuck in an airport for 12 hours with three small childen, and your culinary choices limited to candy bars and bottled soda from the magazine store.
Oh, and, uh . . . can't we get some Kubbeh in that new meat machine? Shwarma? Falafel??? I hate knishes . . .
By KIM SEVERSON
Published: August 15, 2007
WHERE else but New York could two guys who grew up together find a way to blend kosher food, cutting-edge cooking technology and hip-hop?
Earlier this month, the nation’s first glatt kosher vending machine that can shoot out a hot knish was installed at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. The machine also crisps up kosher mozzarella sticks, cheese pizza and onion rings. And in a few weeks, freshly grilled hot dogs in warm buns will be for sale there, too. Not from the same machine, of course. That wouldn’t be kosher.
The vending machines are called Hot Nosh 24/6. “To make it a little Jewish sounding we called it nosh, and we added the 24/6 to give a little cuteness to it,” said Doron Fetman, who with his partner, Alan Cohnen, created Kosher Vending Industries.
Although Orthodox and some Conservative Jews do not use electric devices during Sabbath, the creators of Hot Nosh 24/6 will leave that choice to the customer. Despite their name, the machines will be ready to serve 24/7.
Ruby Azrak, a street clothing magnate who launched Russell Simmons’s Phat Farm line, is backing the project. Mr. Azrak, who refers to himself as “a Syrian Jew from Brooklyn who keeps kosher but doesn’t wear a yarmulke,” has one of the machines in the stylish garment district office where he runs the House of Dereon, the clothing line of the singer Beyoncé.
The minute Mr. Fetman and Mr. Cohnen presented the project to Mr. Azrak, he saw it as an idea worth millions.
“If you’re in Brooklyn and you eat kosher, it’s no problem,” he said. “But if an Orthodox Jew is stuck in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where are you going to eat? If you walk into an airport, there is nowhere to eat. If you walk into a hospital for a good thing like your wife giving birth or a bad thing like someone is sick, there is nowhere to eat.”
Over the next couple of months, the men will install Hot Nosh machines at a handful of colleges, malls and hospitals in the tri-state area. They’ll put some at Jewish day schools in Brooklyn and at the Sloatsburg rest area on the New York Thruway, the largest one on the way to the Catskills. Their business plan calls for 2,000 machines in the next two years in ballparks, malls, airports, military bases — pretty much anywhere people might be willing to pop in a few dollars for something hot and kosher.
From a culinary perspective, this is the kind of food that would make the pharisees of local, seasonal food fall to their knees and beg for mercy. The frozen knish is thawed in a microwave compartment, then crisped by what Mr. Fetman calls “a convection oven on steroids.” The hot dogs, individually sealed in plastic so they can stay in the machine for up to 21 days, are heated in seconds with a combination of grilling and infrared technology. The bun is warmed in a separate oven.
For food from a vending machine, it isn’t terrible. Crusts are crisp, fillings soft and steamy. It would do in a pinch. But the knish this reporter sampled couldn’t compare to one from Mr. Broadway, a kosher deli near Mr. Azrak’s office.
The men who developed the machines grew up together in New Jersey and run the business from an office in Rockland County, New York. A year ago they started talking about how frustrating it was to travel and not be able to eat anything at airport restaurants.
“I said it would be great if we could come up with some food in a box we could sell,” said Mr. Fetman, who also runs a deli and catering company in Somerville, N.J.
They discovered a company called KRh Thermal Systems in California, which had created machines it describes as “fully automated mini-restaurants.” Over the past few years, Kraft, Tyson and other food companies have used them to sell pizza, chicken strips and grilled sandwiches in hotels and offices. But the men behind Kosher Vending Industries think that’s a limited market.
“In America there’s a Burger King on every corner, so who needs to eat hot food out of a machine?” asks Mr. Azrak.
At Hackensack University Medical Center, the kosher vending machines solved a vexing food problem. The hospital has Orthodox staff members and an increasing number of patients from Orthodox communities in New Jersey and upstate New York, said Irma Newdorf, the assistant director of nutrition and food management. Although the cafeteria offers kosher sandwiches and yogurt , it sells no hot food and is not open 24/7, or even 24/6.
“It works beautifully,” Ms. Newdorf said. “Now if they could do something like that for halal foods, that would be great. We have a growing Muslim population, too.”