An Open Letter From Chef Dan

It’s not possible to start without stating the obvious; it has been and remains, a challenging time for everyone and ARK Catering is no different. The year started very well with big events both in and out of the Centre.

There were a number of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs celebrations at ARK Centre, quite a few kiddush sponsorships and regular corporate events during the working week, again both in and out of the Centre.

We were stretched to our limits for quite some time before COVID-19 happened and then suddenly everything stopped. Just two weeks before Pesach we found ourselves with more time on our hands and a lot of uncertainty. We quickly realised there would be no Second Night Communal Seder at ARK Centre this year.

Pesach is one of those times of year where the family and community get together around a table full of food and togetherness. So we thought, how can we help everyone have as much of the ‘normal’ Seder as possible, whilst still keeping as safe as possible. And that’s how the ‘Seder-In-A-Box’ idea came to be.

We were able to provide Seder Boxes that included a three course meal as well as all of the elements of the Seder plate, and an actual Seder plate as well.

Thankfully we were able to do it even at a time when getting ingredients from our Kosher suppliers was very difficult due to the panic buying that was going on.

With a small team of ARK staff, who had to be in complete isolation in order for this operation to succeed, it was a real challenge. As soon as we started taking orders, we realised that we had underestimated the need for those boxes. Orders kept coming in from the community around the ARK as well other neighbourhoods such as Bentleigh and Brighton and anywhere between. We didn’t want to say no to anyone, but we were starting to run out of supplies!

The kitchen was koshered by Rabbi Gabi and we quickly moved into cooking mode. The ARK team was supported by some extra family members who lent a helping hand to begin packing all of the boxes. By the time delivery day came round, there was not a spare inch of bench space in our kitchen without a box on it!

Deliveries went out on the road in three different cars filled with Seder Boxes, and arrived at their very happy and appreciative customers, who all said how great the service was. We were thrilled to be able to provide this for the community during such a time.

It was only natural to keep this service going with the introduction of Shabbat Boxes soon after Pesach finished. We advertised our Shabbat Boxes in the ARK weekly newsletter as well as on social media to reach non ARK members. The idea of ordering Shabbat dinner without leaving the house for shopping was received with open arms and the response was great.

Something which was really impressive was the response from the community to the ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative, which was overwhelmingly generous. The number of people who wanted to participate and donate a Shabbat Box to someone who was doing it tough during this complicated time was amazing. The ARK team felt very privileged to be able to be in a place where we were able to provide families and individuals with a sense of connection to our community and a feeling of ‘we are here to look after one another’.

At a time where many people were let go by their work places and left with the uncomfortable feeling of seeming unneeded, we had the truly humbling experience of feeling needed more than ever. We were able to provide a link between the community members who wanted to help others, and the community members who needed that help. At times like these just to be ‘useful’ and play your part in the community without ego and not for any glory, simply helping fellow humans, is a very special feeling.

So I would like to take this opportunity to say thank  you to The ARK’s community for their generosity and support during this difficult time. By keeping the Centre and the team operating we have been able to make a positive difference in people’s lives and provide a sense of community in a time of isolation. Thank you to all the people who donated those meals and thank you to the people who made the connections to those who needed those meals. I would especially like to mention Lisa Naphtali, Rabi Gabi, Francis Flood from our team and Romy Bursztyn from Our Village Kitchen, who all worked behind the scenes to raise the donations and provide us with the destinations. Without you we could not have done it.

As we start to get back to some sort of normality, I would like to give a brief outline of what we are planning on focusing on in the near future at ARK Catering.

The Shabbat Boxes are still running with a new menu every week to keep it interesting and delicious for your Shabbat dinners. If you can have the family over or just don’t feel like cooking we would like to make it easier for you to put on a delicious and affordable Shabbat dinner with all the usual Shabbat favourites, plus some new and interesting dishes inspired by local fresh produce and delicious Israeli flavours. You can add any of our Deli Menu items to your Shabbat Box and make it an even more plentiful table or just fill the fridge up with delicious food for the week ahead.

Likewise, we still have many families in our community who could use a helping hand. So your donations to Pay it Forward really help us to be able to support them and others who could use some good food to build their spirits.

With the corporate world slowly coming back to life, we are back with a new fresh menu and new ways of operating in a COVID-19 compliant manner. We have already started to receive orders and bookings for corporate meetings, but we need more to be able to sustain our operation, so if you need any catering or are able to recommend us to someone who might be interested, we will be very appreciative of your recommendation of ARK Catering. The new menu and pricelist are in this magazine and new menus can always be found via our social media.

All our food is now in individual packaging in accordance with personal hygiene and social distancing guidelines, enabling corporate catering for meetings. We run a compliant and hygienic operation, and can deliver corporate catering anywhere within a 10km radius of ARK Centre including the CBD. Just so you know, for Shabbat Boxes, we deliver all over.

Your orders will help greatly in getting our local supply chain back in business. We are making a big effort to make sure everything we buy is Australian made, including local fresh produce and packaging, as well as all other necessities supporting small local businesses. We all share the common goal of getting local businesses back into gear and helping our economy launch back into action.

With hope for better times and good health for everyone, I would like to thank you again for all the support and wish you all a great year of growth ahead.

Dan Woltema (Chef Dan)
Head chef – ARK Catering

To contact Chef Dan email

You might also be interested in