December 9 2021  |  Catering

Kosher Arabia gears up for year-end push

By Rick Lundstrom

(left to right) Godrume Kriel, Director of Kosher at Kosher Arabia, Matt Rickard, General Manager of Kosher Arabia, PAX International Publisher Aijaz Khan, Executive Chef Trent Sanft, and Senior Sous Chef Rezkallah Bitar

The end of 2021 finds Dubai-based Kosher Arabia at the heart of a number of important events and cultural and political shifts that promise immediate and long-term growth for the company.

From its 17,000-square-foot facility, kosher certified meals flow to retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels around the emirate, and some for export. But soon Matt Rickard, General Manager of Kosher Arabia, and his staff of 20 people from around the world will turn much more of their attention to airline catering. The unit served its first airline meal in July of this year, and Rickard says food service for airlines could climb to 75 percent of the company’s business by the end of this year.

Kosher Arabia's new facility in Dubai

PAX International visited the office of Kosher Arabia in November, toured the kitchen facilities (one for parev products and the other for meat) and spoke at length with Rickard. His experience over the years has taken him from a company that supplies food service for Formula One races to another company in London that catered million-dollar bar mitzvahs and weddings.

Now, the General Manager and trained chef brings his experience to Dubai and Abu Dhabi where the kosher cooking — and all complexities and requirements for preparation — are in high-demand. With the signing of the Abraham Accords and the opening of Expo 2020 which is running through March 2022, kosher meal orders will only grow as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and the world opens up.

Kosher Arabia expects a shift toward airline meal production as air travel increases

“It has been quite a journey, but we have done what we said we wanted to do,” Rickard says. “Which is to create great kosher food.”

With the Expo going full swing, travelers are visiting Dubai in big numbers, many of them Jewish and predominantly from Israel, France, the United Kingdom, United States and Russia. Kosher Arabia ships products daily from the kitchens to places such as Country Pavilions and other Retail outlets on the site of the Expo. Rickard says that much of the demand for kosher food comes not from kosher consumers, but others that appreciate the quality and preparations that go into making the product.

Kosher Arabia has a staff of 20 people from around the world

Like halal products, kosher animal slaughter it strictly regulated. Raw produce is inspected closely to see there are no insects in a final product. Kosher meals are sealed and certified under close supervision. In the case of airlines, kosher food cannot be served on standard rotable tableware that is used for non-kosher meals. Airline meals from Kosher Arabia are in packaging made from recycled cardboard, and compostable sugar cane pulp along with cutlery manufactured from biodegradable avocado stone.

Sustainable materials have taken on new importance in meal packaging

Rickard says much of the cuisine has Mediterranean, Moroccan or Middle Eastern influences aligned with Jewish Sephardic cuisine. The company also makes traditional kosher fare like lox and bagels. All the products are made fresh at Kosher Arabia.

Chicken prepared at Kosher Arabia

The company is co-owned by Ross Kriel of CCL, President of the Jewish Community of the Emirates and has been in the planning for eight to nine years, says Rickard. However, world events played an important role in finally taking the Kosher Arabia from drawing board to operations.

“No one knew the Abraham Accords were going to happen, but the timing was incredibly significant,” Rickard says. “And at that point, it was like ‘OK, now we need to move the project forward.’”

All the products are made fresh at Kosher Arabia

Kosher products are in high demand, and valued for the quality and care of preparation

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