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Category: BLOG - NYC Hock

Kosher Combat at Le Marais

by Lonkd Posted: 03-28-2007(Viewed 4780 times)

NY Post reports on Kosher Combat at famed  1st date NYC Steak house Le Marais.

New York Post




March 28, 2007 -- Everything is kosher at Manhattan's popular Le Marais steakhouse, its owners insist.

And they've filed a $10 million lawsuit to bar a former supervisor at the restaurant from saying otherwise.

A state judge yesterday ordered Isaac Bitton, a former mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, to stop posting to the Internet any statements about Le Marais or its employees - including the restaurant's head chef, Mark Hennessey, whom Bitton called "a Jew hater."

Bitton's son said last night that his father will not comply with the order. "We have enough tape recordings and documents to prove the story," said Yisrael Bitton.

A lawyer for Le Marais, Richard Klass, said Bitton's allegations have cut business at the French kosher Midtown eatery by 30 percent.

Le Marais is backed by the Orthodox Union, an international kosher certification organization that says it thoroughly investigated Bitton's charges and found "no evidence of intent" that the restaurant's chef sought to break kosher rules.

On a Web page, Bitton claims the Orthodox Union "up to the highest echelons" endorses "a cover-up of the facts to protect their business interests."

The OU responded, "Mr. Bitton developed amazing conspiratorial theories involving crime organizations to explain why people denied his allegations, and attributed dark and evil motives to sincere and honest individuals within the OU."

One of Bitton's allegations is that dairy margarine "was placed in a pot with other food" in the restaurant's kitchen several months ago. Kosher law forbids mixing dairy and meat.

But the OU said it was an honest error, and the food was not served.

Bitton also complains that Hennessey ordered non-kosher fish to be delivered to the restaurant during the Sabbath, when Le Marais was closed. But the fish company said the delivery was a mistake.

And, Bitton says, strawberries arrived in the kitchen without having been checked by Bitton or the eatery's other mashgiach. "When I later checked those strawberries I found several worms in them," Bitton said.

To make matters worse, says Bitton, Hennessey sometimes lit the restaurant's ovens. Under kosher law, that's a job for the restaurant's mashgiachs.

Bitton quit working at the restaurant three weeks ago.

"The fact that the chef and owners of the restaurant are not Jewish makes it an even more precarious situation," Klass said. "The people who eat there are relying on the mashgiach."


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Bangin' Reader Comments:

From: New York
Date: 03-29-2007
Rating: 10

Hi everyone,

The email that we have all been receiving about the unkosher activities occurring at Le Marais is pretty descriptive and disturbing in its allegations.


In addressing my own concerns I have contacted the OU and Le Marais to find out what is really going on.


Here is the story:


The evening mashgiach and the chef had a big falling out.  When the owner would not fire the chef, the mashgiach resigned and started a smear campaign against the restaurant. The OU is still giving certification to the restaurant and has investigated the issues and found NO HALACHIC VIOLATIONS.



1)      Shellfish- The rabbi alleges that the chef ordered shellfish and used it in the restaurant. In reality a new food delivery company for a restaurant next door made a mistake and dropped off the wrong package on a day Le Marais was closed to patrons, but open for construction. The box containing the shell fish was never even brought into the restaurant but left at the door. The delivery company admitted the error and has the invoice to prove it.

2)      Unkosher Margarine- The chef of Le Marais ran out of margarine and went to a supermarket up to get some more. Upon his return the mashgiach saw that the chef had purchased OU-Dairy margarine. The dairy margarine was brought right back and NEVER came near ant food.  The chef realized the mistake and since then has been even more careful, and relies on the mashgiach’s advice for everything purchased in an emergency situation.

3)      Strawberries- The claims that strawberries that had not been properly checked were used. This is just not true as the morning mashgiach, Rabbi Avrohom Keller, had cleaned and checked all the strawberries.

4)      Turning on the flame- the daytime mashgiach, Rabbi Avrohom Keller, has never ever seen this in his experiences with the chef.

5)      Beetles in the lettuce- The rabbi claims that the chef intentionally placed bugs in the salad.  It is the mashgiach’s responsibility to check the lettuce for bugs before it is served; yet, the chef he directs his anger wasn’t even at the restaurant the night he claims it happened.


Again the OU has investigated and found these to either be slander or misunderstandings. The OU is still giving their certification.


I hope that you will trust the OU here as we do on so many of our products and trust the integrity of the owners of le Marais, who have been slandered for no reason other than the anger of a disgruntled mashgiach.  What the allegations amount to is a bizarre reversal of the old Jewish “blood Libel” canard, as the chef and the owner of Le Marais are not Jewish, and are being accused of intentionally feeding Jews treif to satisfy some perversion.  

After speaking with the owner of Le Marais and meeting Rabbi Avrohom Keller, a good man and trustworthy mashgiach, I hold them in much esteem for being so thorough in their investigation to get to the bottom of this. The daytime mashgiach stated very clearly that the evening mashgiach was warned repeatedly by the OU to stop making up his own rules about kashrut and stop the rumors and gossip he was creating, and to stick to the kashrut guidelines of the OU.


Rabbi Yakkov Luban and Rabbi Dov Schreier at the OU, prepared a defense of Le Marais and disgust over the slander.  I have enclosed it with this email.



Average Rating:10 out of 10

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