First Hotel Kosher Kitchen Opens in Downtown Dallas

DALLAS—Fairmont Dallas has the first hotel Kosher kitchen in the city’s downtown area. With the support of local rabbis, the hotel is forging strong ties with the Jewish community.

“The community here is a close-knit group,” said Chef Jared Harms, Fairmont Dallas. “When we speak to clients and we speak about past events and planning future events, you can tell the community is thriving and vibrant. It’s growing, too. We have an age range that is across the spectrum at events.  The Rabbis here are an extended part of our team. We always learn something.”

Harms shared a quote that Rabbi David Shawel would often share with him: “There’s never been a challenge that has arisen that we haven’t been able to overcome as a team.”

Harms also credits Rabbi Shawel with helping him with his first large Kosher event at the hotel. “I had never done a Kosher event, or one of that size, and he really helped a lot,” he said.

At Fairmont Dallas, the facility is a “meat kitchen” and there’s no dairy involved. “In terms of the layout of the kitchen, there’s a 1,200-sq.-ft. island in the center of a 5,000-sq.-ft. kitchen and a barrier wall,” said Harms. “Inside, there’s a large amount of workspace, burners, two convection ovens and a meat slicer; everything is brand new. We really enjoyed opening the doors and getting to work.”

The kosher kitchen was built in place and a rabbi came to wrap and tape the equipment. When it’s time for use, the rabbi will unwrap it and verify that the equipment has not been tampered with. At the close of any event, the kitchen is resealed by the rabbi.

“We all get together to clean the kitchen and once it’s completely clean, we have dishware and all of the pots and pans and utensils cleaned up, then we roll it into the kitchen wrapped and sealed with special tape,” said Harms.

In addition, significant care was taken when it came to training the culinary teams in the upkeep of the kitchen and strict kosher rules.

“When I started there, I was on the phone with Rabbi Shawel,” he said. “It was a sort of ‘train the trainer’ moment and he let me know what is and what is not kosher, including food behaviors and equipment handling. I was able to take that information and train my team. And then, to my very good fortune, Chef James Phillips—from the Fairmont Chicago—started working here as executive chef of catering and conference services, and he has experience with a kosher kitchen. We shared additional information with our team. There are several team members here that have been producing kosher events for several years and they have quite a bit of knowledge, which works to everyone’s benefit.”

For Chef Harms, there’s continuous sourcing of better products and ingredients to create the meals he believes his guests deserve.

“The first and utmost thing we need to do is source highest quality available. The search goes on,” he said. “If we stop looking for new and better ingredients, we’ll have what we’ve always served. We’ve been able to elevate quality coming through and expand upon the greatest hits on the menu. The Jewish community has seen and pushed past this concept with new experiences to surprise and delight.”

The culinary teams maintain strong communication with the Rabbis and community members. “We often collaborate and will come up with something awesome,” he said. “For example, when it comes to meat, there are only certain portions that are kosher; that means the Jewish community has seen the same cuts of beef over and over. We want to see what we can do and push the envelope in terms of fish, lamb and other seafood. It’s a lot of fun.”