Philly Faces: Daniel Israel – Jewish Exhibitor
In 2015, Daniel Israel was doing odd jobs and looking for direction. He only knew one thing for sure: he wanted to marry his girlfriend, Amanda Ross.
But to get Ross’s father’s approval, Israel had to find a way. And, one day, Israel’s girlfriend asked him what he wanted to do.
“Kitchen,” he said.
Receive the Jewish Exponent newsletter by email and never miss our best stories
We do not share data with third party providers.
Six years later, Israel, now 32, is the owner of Deluxe Catering, a kosher catering business in Philadelphia. And Amanda Ross is now Amanda Israel.
Going into another Rosh Hashanah, Israel is full of orders and recently several people from a local Facebook group recommended it to someone looking for a High Holiday caterer.
How big is a big vacation for you at this point?
Secondary. I do it for the community. Our business is focused on weddings, galas and fundraisers.
But we also organize small events. We organize events of all sizes. From one person to 10,000 people.
What types of foods does your business specialize in?
I have a wide range of food that I make. Different ethnicities. Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Thai. I am just starting to familiarize myself with Ethiopian cuisine. I like to learn new dishes.
Sometimes people will see something they like on Pinterest or go to an event where they ate something delicious, and it’s something they really want to have at their event. It is important to be flexible.
I just had a wedding last Sunday, and they wanted an Indian resort. We haven’t done this for three years. But when someone has a certain taste, we take it from our repertoire.
What made you want to become a chef?
My father (Naftali Israel). He was a cook in his youth. Then he embarked on contracting. But he has friends who are chefs in town.
I learned in an upscale French restaurant, Deux Cheminées. My father put me in touch with his friend, Chef Fritz Blank.
I worked for him from 15 to 18 years old. He taught me 90% of what I know.
How did your career as a cook go from there?
My dad put me in, but he was trying to get me out. He said it was not a good salary. It’s hard on the feet, knees and back. It’s impossible to have a family life.
I listened to it and continued to go to school.
I went to Temple (University) and studied Kinesiology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I became more curious about my roots, took a trip to Israel and thought maybe I should stay.
I came home and my mom put me in touch with her friend who was selling life insurance. I worked at New York Life and sold insurance for 5-6 years.
Then I met my wife.
Once you decided to follow your passion, how did you build yourself?
I had to start from scratch. I hadn’t been in the industry for seven years.
I wanted to be a kosher supervisor. Someone who oversees food shipments to the kitchen.
Ofelia (Cohen) with A La Karte Catering (at Bala Cynwyd) directed me to a rabbi who could certify me. I started working with her and Six Points Kosher Catering (in King of Prussia).
From there I got a job at Temple as a chef and supervisor at Hillel. I ran the only kosher grocery store in Philadelphia. It is now called Café 613.
During the winter holidays, I wanted to earn some extra money. So I worked in this sushi restaurant, Sushi Talk.
When I came back during summer vacation, things were slowing down. I made an agreement with the owner.
I said, “You don’t have to pay me. I know you are in pain. In return, if anyone needs me to do a catering job, I have permission to do it in your kitchen. He loved her.
The first month, I won over $ 15,000. He had four years of lease left. I bailed her out and been there since: 7588 Haverford Ave.
I did everything myself for the first two years. Cooking, cleaning, menu planning, sales. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and returned at 11:00 p.m.
But when you host an event, everyone at that event tastes your food, and that changes everything.
Where is the business going now?
Sunday, I had a wedding in Barnesville. I didn’t know this place existed before. I find work in Scranton and the Poconos. It’s really grown up.
Now my main goal is to grow the business without reducing the quality of the food.
I will have to train other people. I have a rule with my chefs: when they do something on their own, they have to do it twice perfectly before they can cook it without me testing it.
[email protected]; 215-832-0740