In this week’s Jewish Week paper, I wrote about another kosher name related controversy, this time involving the pop-up kosher BBQ, “Hakadosh BBQ“, which I personally find to be one of the most clever and witty names for a Jewish business. (Another cleverly named restaurant is opening soon in Teaneck)
There are those who are offended by the business name, sparking angry emails to Hakadosh BBQ’s supervising agency, the Star K, and thus prompting owner Ari White to change the name of the business.
This is somewhat different in nature from the “Jezebel” controversy with the OU, but conversations are arising around the role of a Kashrut agency, and if they should have the authority to ask or demand a name change, or anything unrelated to the food.
UPDATE: While I spoke to Ari White (owner of Hakadosh BBQ) before writing the article, he sent me the following message on Facebook which he asked me to publish. Feel free to comment below and Ari will respond.
A lot of hubbub has surrounded my recent decision to rename my prized 4700lb Texas made BBQ Smoker and I would like to set the story strait. Three of my four babies were named on Sukkot. Asher Elimelech had his bris followed by a huge Gemstone catered lunch at Orach Chaim nearly six years back. Three years later my second son Yoav Oz was named again during Sukkot at his bris (which I did myself=) followed by a Seussian inspired -Green Eggs & “Ham” bbq breakfast in the Sukkah at my HQ in Yonkers, the Lincoln Park Jewish Center. While my third son (Nadiv Israel) was still incubating within my wife who was on bedrest at Columbia Pres Hospital at the time, the name Hakadosh BBQ came to one of my guests in between zmirot during 1st night’s dinner, inspired in the sukkah surrounded by a feast of friends enjoying a phenomenal bottle of good ol’ southern bourbon. From the moment the name left Benji’s lips, I knew it was what I wanted to name my new smoker – an 18ft “Stalker” model bbq rig made in Houston Texas by the ever so talented guys at Gator Pits. Over the 10 months to follow, the very nature of my business would take wild expansionary turns resulting in the pitcrew we currently have servicing the NYC area with pop-ups and the weekly Sunday street fairs.
H’kBBQ was never meant to be the name of any business as we operated then and still under the dual titles of “got cholent? Inc”, our Shabbat oriented wing as well as Gemstone Catering, our on and offsite boutique catering branch. I took on the name on facebook and twitter as part of our ever active online marketing and left it at that. Ten months of work in and around the metro area and we never heard so much as a peep. In fact the name, at least for those who got the pun, was generally received with great humor and praise. Our most recent pop-up in Philadelphia however, a fundraiser for the Kohelet Yehiva and their Yoetzet program, proved to be a game changer as it seems that angry mail began pouring into the STAR-K offices aghast in outrage and condemnation for what was viewed as the trivialization – chas v’chalila – of the The Name of The Holy One, Blessed Be He. This matter was brought to my attention just before our competing this past weekend, also under the team name Hakadosh BBQ in the Long Island Kosher BBQ Competition and quite honestly left me unsettled all Shabbas long. My epiphany came while meeting and speaking with one of the judges charged with scoring booth names and designs. He too found himself offended by what he deemed as irreverence of God’s name and scored us accordingly, which as an aside cost us 1st place and the Grand Champion trophy. This judge struck me as good man, mamish, and I had deeply offended him. I left the corporate world so that I could do something I love and literally bring greater joy to people. We cater weddings, bar/bat Mitzvahs, meals and kiddushes for Shabbat and work with dozens of charitable and worthy organizations facilitating many of their fundraising events. Every one of these gigs in some way works towards the goal of making this world of ours an ever so slightly better place. The answer, in my eyes, was crystal clear.
I am in the business of making people be b’Simcha, not offending their deepest beliefs and personal paths towards praising daily The Almighty. I’d like to see my part in bringing the Southern traditions of my youth to NY streets as a Kiddush Hashem and not the very opposite. With that said, it is the mutual opinion of the Vaad HaRabonim of Baltimore, aka the STAR-K, and myself that we find a better suited name for my budding business now, rather then waiting to offend even more people in the weeks and B’sD years to come. This is by no means an OU/Jezebel sort of scandal. Nor has their been any sort of intimidation, ultimatums or threats of any kind by the STAR-K. I am happy with having the quality and authenticity of my food speak for itself and don’t need any gimmicks or shock marketing to get people to follow and frequent our pop-ups, street fairs and events. I am sorry to those whom I have offended and look forward to continuing to bring NYC and surrounding areas the best damn BBQ they’ve ever experienced. Our schedule of dates and locations can still be found at www.gotcholent.com. Our smokin’ has just barely begun! b’Simcha Tamid ~Ari White
Chef/Owner ~ Gemstone Catering Pitboss ~ Texas Roadside Smokehouse Under the Supervision of the STAR-K In house catering firm to the Lincoln Park Jewish Center, Yonkers, NY www.gotcholent.com