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Topic: Kashrut, Using Other People's Pans in a Restaurant

Avi wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Our youngest son was born with a disease known as "celiac" which imposes upon him a life-long diet restriction. He cannot ingest any form of wheat or other grains which contain gluten. If he does so, it will cause him to become very ill. We, as a family, have learned to adjust to this "inconvenience" and even when we eat out, we manage to find kosher gluten-free foods that our son can eat.

But the other day, we ran into a problem, when we decided to go out for pizza at a kosher pizza restaurant which we had not tried before. Since we had done this many times before at other pizza places, we knew the drill. My wife prepared a special pizza dough made from gluten-free flour. She laid it in a round aluminum "chalavi" (dairy) pan (we keep kashrut).

In the past, we would simply request from workers at the pizza place which we were visiting to add the sauce and cheese and toppings to our pre-prepared pan with the dough, and cook it in their ovens, as normal. The pizza always turned out great, and our son could enjoy his own pizza, along with us (we always order a "normal" mishpachti-size (family) pizza for the rest of us).

But at this particular pizza restaurant, the night-shift manager refused to make the pizza for our son, because he cited "perhaps your pan is not kosher. I cannot take this chance." Now, I must tell you Rabbi, I wear a kippa (yarmulke) and was doing so at the restaurant. Yet no amount of arguments would have convinced this manager that our pan was kosher enough for his ovens. Was his "ruling" correct? I dread to think that this is how far we are taking our kashrut laws, to the point that a person cannot eat in a commercial place, because of his illness, because that is the upshot of this whole story. Granted, it is not every day that we take our own cooking pans to a restaurant, but then again, what's wrong with finding creative solutions? Was our creative solution unkosher?

Dear Avi,

Firstly, I wish your son a complete recovery. Your solution was very creative and I applaud your "let's-find-a-solution" attitude.

In this particular instance, however, I think the pizza shop manager did the correct thing by refusing. The night manager is not necessarily a kashrut expert. And even if he were, the people who eat at the restaurant are relying not upon him but rather upon the kashrut supervisor who is sent by the kashrut agency. Therefore, the night manager should not introduce any changes in the food-making process without the express permission of the kashrut supervising agency. It's not so much a matter of kashrut as it is a matter of policy.

Perhaps if you contact the kashrut supervision agency and make an arrangement with them they will allow you to "bring your own."

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