New site for area’s largest kosher caterer

Bernstein’s Fine Catering V.P. Adam Baumgarten at the new facility, 1130 E. Central Ave (the old Roberds Plaza) in West Carrollton

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

With the lease almost up at their storefront at Randolph Plaza and facing a move to West Carrollton, Steve Bernstein, owner of Bernstein’s Fine Catering, and his vice president, Adam Baumgarten, felt remorse about leaving Clayton.

That was until Friday, May 13, when an 83-year-old woman drove through their window and ended up in the walk-in refrigerator.

“At that point,” Adam relates, “Steve looked at me and he said, ‘OK. I’m ready to get out of this place.’”

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the driver destroyed the walk-in refrigerator, all of their fresh food inventory, and much of their supplies.

Two months later, Steve and Adam now celebrate the move to their new catering facility — a former restaurant and nightclub — in the old Roberds Plaza, at 1130 E. Central Ave.

Adam says the main reasons for the move were space and location.

“Ninety percent of our events are south of Monument Avenue,” he says. “From a logistics point of view, it made sense. And we have easy access to 741 and 725.”

Photo: Bruce Soifer
Steve Bernstein (L), Lauren and Adam Baumgarten prepare for an event

The new site doubles Bernstein’s space to almost 5,000 square feet.

According to Adam, of the 1,300 catering jobs Bernstein’s handled in 2010, approximately 30-35 percent were kosher.

“I’d say we do 90 percent of the kosher catering (in the Dayton area),” he says.

Within two years, he and Steve hope to add a small kosher prep kitchen at their new site. For kosher jobs, they currently use the kitchens at Beth Jacob and Beth Abraham Synagogues, and the Boonshoft CJCE, often with Eva Rosenberg serving as mashgiach (kosher supervisor).

Adam says Bernstein’s also handles about 90 percent of kosher meal requests from hotels and conference centers in the Dayton area.

“They’ll call us for one or two kosher meals, to our much larger, 300, 400, 500-people events. At one point we talked about not doing those single meals because there’s no profit. But we found that when these places had big, kosher events, they called us to do everything. And it was worth it to do those meals for them 12, 15 times a year to get that one big kosher event every year and a half.”

Adam, a graduate of Northmont High School, started working for Steve 19 years ago, washing dishes when he was 15. At the time, Steve also ran the Uptown Deli restaurant at the Randolph Plaza site. Adam would come back and work for Steve during his summers off from the University of Pittsburgh.

“And when I graduated, he offered me a position of general manager,” Adam says. “Five years ago, when  Lauren and I got married, I became a partner.”

Approximately 60-65 percent of Bernstein’s business is from private affairs, 30-35 percent from corporate events, he says.

“Things have really changed in the past few years,” Adam says. “We’re starting to come out of it. A year ago, our corporate business probably dropped by 70 percent: not only in the number of events but in the dollars spent.”

He says the latest trend in Bar and Bat Mitzvah catering is to offer a variety of ethnic stations.

“We’re getting ready to do a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in September with an Indian station, an Asian station, and a pasta station.”

Indian is the newest addition to their repertoire. In the past, they subcontracted those requests out. Not anymore.

“At a lot of (food) conferences we go to, there’s always a lunch-and-learn with Indian food,” Adam says.

“It’s nice because we get to do something different. Starting as Uptown Deli was great, but it was limiting in the fact that people only thought we did meat trays, tuna salad, egg salad with bagels. But we do much more than that: multi-course sit-down dinners, upscale cocktail parties. We’re ready.”

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