Moshe Oziel, founder and president of Clearwater Catering Inc., said one of the things that separates his company from other kosher options in the city is his emphasis on the farm to table concept, a movement focused on the production of local, seasonal and often, but not always, organic food.
“Today we aren’t entirely aware of the way our food is grown, handled and processed,” said 30-year-old Oziel, who founded his full-service, kosher catering company (under COR) in 2009.
“There are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and pesticides, and unfortunately, we’re getting away from natural foods, so farm to table is perfect for those who are interested in eating locally grown, seasonal food,” he said.
The movement strives to bring the food industry back to the days when people grew most of their own food or bought from local farmers. Today, much of the produce found in grocery stores comes from halfway around the world and is in transit for days before it reaches the dinner table.
The longer it takes for food to get from the farm to your home, the more nutrition and flavour is lost.
“If I can get potatoes that came from a local farm less than 100 kilometres away from here, as opposed to something that has been harvested before its time, shipped over here and ripened on a truck, my product is going to be better and my clients are going to taste the difference,” Oziel said.
“I love farming and I love agriculture and I always have a garden at my house… I plant things seasonally. Farm to table is a good way for me to incorporate that into the culinary world, but it’s also a lifestyle.”
Because farm to table produce has so much natural flavour, Oziel said he doesn’t feel the need to mask his dishes with competing flavours.
“I personally enjoy a lot of fresh food, vegan and vegetarian dishes, not using too many ingredients, but using just enough so that the freshness of the ingredients is able to shine through,” he said.
“I like to use quality products, such as cold-pressed olive oils, grapeseed oils, the right legumes – it’s about using the best products, not just the ones that are readily available at the cheapest price.”
Oziel, who calls himself a “self-taught cook,” has been part of the kosher catering business for more than seven years.
Although not classically trained, (“I went to the school of hard knocks”), he immersed himself, as much as possible, in the art of food preparation.
“I guess you could say I went to my mom’s chef school. My mom is an amazing cook,” he said.
“When I was 25, I bought books that had the curriculums of the top culinary schools in the United States, and I would go home after work and study the curriculum on my own to understand the business of cooking and catering and understand food.”
His hands-on experience comes from working with talented chefs including Erin Green, currently the executive chef with Taste Culinary Inc., who studied at the Culinary Institute of America, one of the best culinary schools in the world.
When Oziel worked under her, she was the executive chef for Rhonda Litwack Fine Foods, which has since closed down.
“She was a really talented chef and she knew a lot, so she gave me the inspiration to study the art. She made me pay my dues,” he recalled.
Oziel also worked alongside Carlo Lazzarino, who is currently the pastry chef for the Terroni group of restaurants.
At Zuchter Berk Kosher Catering, Oziel served as both a chef and a mashgiach, and he also spent more than two years employed by PR Creative Caterers, another Toronto-based kosher company.
Throughout his years gaining experience in the industry, Oziel developed a love for this line of work.
“I love cooking, but more importantly, I love… the satisfaction that you can obtain from a final result. It’s something that is really important me. I can cook an amazing dish and then I can experience the fruit from that labour right away. Our lives are based around food,” he said.
“To see someone enjoy it is the thing I enjoy most about the whole process.”
He said he hopes his full-service company, which provides a team of servers as well as chefs who cook on-site, will alleviate some of the stresses related with party planning.
Clearwater Catering offers a number of set menu choices, but Oziel said clients can customize their menu to reflect their personal tastes, dietary restrictions and budget.
“It’s not all about me and the bottom dollar. I believe life is a series of experiences and we have to enjoy it as much as we can.”
For more information, visit clearwatercatering.ca.