Jewish Journal


February 21, 2013

From Kosher to Jew-ish



Old and new MOE

Since my wife and I opened our food truck M.O.Eggrolls in 2011, I have had some of the best and worst days of my life. As the chef and owner of my own business I have had the freedom to create my own schedule, design my own menu, and create a food concept that connects with my religion. Along with these freedoms, comes the stress and obligations of payroll, utility bills and the constant fear of not being able to make ends meet. It is the yin and yang that every entrepreneur must face when building a business.

When the M.O.Eggrolls food truck first hit the streets, we served certified glatt kosher meat and our kitchen was supervised by Rabbi Susan Leider, a conservative Rabbi from Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. My wife Emily and I were determined to bring new life to kosher dining in Los Angeles. Our dream was a kosher concept that operated outside the boundaries of the established supervising bodies, that was driven by delicious food that celebrated classic Jewish cuisine. We want to do our part to help engage Conservative Jews, in particular young Jews in Los Angeles, in a place outside of a synagogue. Our mission was to make food that all Angelenos would crave, Jewish or not, that happened to be kosher. We worked ourselves to the bone for over a year, determined to make this concept work. The fact is, we were committing financial suicide in the process. Our kosher business had almost no kosher customers.

The only way for our business to survive and have a chance for growth was by no longer serving hechshered meat and by extending our schedule to include Shabbos.  This meant no kosher certification. It was clear to both Emily and I what needed to be done to save our business, but neither of us was willing to make those changes and give up on our original dream. If it weren’t for a pilot show that we taped last fall for the Food Network, Emily and I would have driven our truck off a financial cliff in the name of new kosher dining. During the taping of the show, we were forced to face the harsh reality of our business. We were running out of money, and in turn had no time to save our business. We decided to make the changes to drop our kosher certification and become “kosher-style” instead.  This means we would keep the menu the same, just no pork, shellfish or dairy. We also expanded the menu to include sandwiches and non-fried eggrolls, something we had been wanting to add for a while. We re-launched our new truck MOE Deli, a kosher-style deli. MOE Deli is inspired by the cuisine of my roots with a similar mission as M.O.Eggrolls, to bring new life to Jewish cuisine instead of kosher cuisine.

The show, Can Family Save my Business, airs Friday 2/22 4pm/7pm and Saturday 2/23 1pm/4pm (during Shabbos, how ironic) on the Food Network. Watch us as we make big changes, along with the help of our wonderful family, to grow our business. We dared talk about Judaism in LA, kashrut, and Shabbat, topics rarely and maybe never before addressed on the Food Network. Our business is growing and we are still afloat. We have not given up on our mission to change kosher dining or engagement of young Jews in the mainstream world, we have just made a detour. Emily and I have lofty dreams for what our business will look like in the future, and we will never give up on bringing new life to both kosher and Jewish cuisine.

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