Catering to the masses

Malcolm Green loves running his business and is a completely self-taught chef.

Malcolm Green (photo credit: Gloria Deutch)
Malcolm Green
(photo credit: Gloria Deutch)
‘W hen I first began catering in Israel, the people weren’t really ready to bring outside catering into the wedding halls,” says Malcolm Green, who first made aliya in 1983. “In those days, you had to pay an extra dollar for a wine glass – other wise you got a plastic mug.”
Though he is known today for his sumptuous food, which he can cater anywhere in the world – he’s been in Hawaii, Japan, Barbados and the Bahamas, to name a few of the more exotic places – his first attempt at aliya was not a huge success.
“It was a bad time, with hyperinflation and a ver y competitive market,” he recalls. He was happy for the half year he and his family spent in the absorption center in Ra’anana, but felt it didn’t prepare him for the real world.
He sold his entire investment here, returned to the UK with his wife, Diane, their two-year-old son and baby daughter, and £1,000 in his pocket.
“We stayed with my mother-in-law, and I was getting unemployment benefits,” he recalls. “But I got back on my feet.”
THE SECOND time around, in 1989, went much better, and today there is no one interested in good food who does not know the name Malcolm Green.
He was born into a food-oriented family in 1951. His grandfather was the landlord of the Crown and Angel pub in Whitechapel, and his father was in the catering business and ran the food bar in London’s Yiddish theater for years. In the ’70s, Green had been in charge of the catering at the last kosher hotel in Brighton, the Kings, and he later worked as the main kosher caterer in that city until his first aliya.
But he always wanted to come to Israel. He felt there was no future for his children in England. As it was such a big decision, he decided to ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe. When he received no reply after his third quer y, the Chabad rabbi in Brighton told him, “He wants you to work it out with your friends and family.”
“If I could, I wouldn’t have asked him,” says Green.
He did work it out, though: He and Diane decided it was too risky to bring up their children in the UK.
“It’s not just the fear of intermarriage,” he says. “Many children there have nothing Jewish in their lives.”
Besides the catering, he always wanted to be a youth leader, and before his aliya he had been working in the Victoria Club for Boys and Girls in Stamford Hill.
In 1989, he was head-hunted to be the administrator of a yeshiva high school in Ma’alot, and once again the family packed up and returned to Israel and a steady job. It suited him perfectly, because it became a hotel on the weekends, and at festivals 500 people came to stay – and all needed three meals a day.
Eventually he decided the time was ripe for Malcolm Green Catering, and put his first ad in The Jerusalem Post.
HIS FIRST function was on the day the Gulf War broke out – a simhat bat (celebration for newborn baby girl) in the Herzliya Squash Club.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back, and many of his clients come back ever y time there is a happy event in the family.
He’s cooked on luxur y liners, in a castle in Scotland and a yacht club in Disney World. He’s seen the food change from gefilte fish and chopped liver to sushi and pumpkin ravioli in a champignon broth, but he still loves “heimishe ” food, and of course does all the cooking himself. He is completely self-taught.
Clearly catering is a stressful occupation, and one wonders how he copes with the tension.
“You don’t,” he says. “You’re on an adrenalin high until the function finishes, and it drains you for two days after ward. And the whole day before, you have no time for anything else except to concentrate on the function.”
He thinks that catering in Israel has improved out of all recognition, especially the receptions, which he feels are usually magnificent.
“We’re not world leaders,” he says, “but we are certainly up there with the best. And we give great value for money. In England, one can pay £200 a head for something that would cost about £70 here.”
The biggest problem is getting the right staff and ensuring that the service is on as high a level as the food.
“Sometimes I have nightmares about that,” he says. “I prefer to employ mature people, and I find that Russians are far better than Anglos.”
He thinks that now people are more traveled, and they expect the food, especially the presentation and the ser vice, to be at a higher level than years ago.
Today he and Diane have three grandchildren and live a satisfying life in their house in Netanya. He has no plans to retire.
“I enjoy it,” he says.
Malcolm Green,62 From Londonto Netanya,1983 and 1989