What does eating kosher mean?
Eating kosher means that all of the ingredients that go in to the preparation of the foods are approved and confirmed by a rabbi. Primarily, that means that there are no animal-based ingredients or derivatives used in any of the foods that they serve. And also, that all the aspects are free from being mixed from meat and milk. It doesn't necessarily mean that the food is healthier — I have to burst people's bubbles, there. It just means that the foods are prepared in accordance with biblical Jewish law.
Why the separation of dairy and meat?
The basis for the separation of meat and milk is, of course, in the Bible. The Bible says, "You cannot cook a kid in its mother's milk." And we know by tradition that this means any meat with any milk. We don't know the reason for this, it is one of the categories of commandments that we don't know the reason, though there are many proposed understandings offered by our sages that meat and milk represent two different spiritual tendencies in the world that are not supposed to be mixed.
What is the rabbi's procedure? I understand there are weekly, or bi-weekly visits to the restaurant...
Oh, more than weekly! It's probably two or three times a week to go in, check things out, and make sure everything is on the up and up. I oversee Cafe Aroma because it's right in my neighborhood, and we got it going and started. Once it's established, it's very easy to go in — it sometimes takes less than five minutes to ascertain that everything is good — check the ingredient list, check the fridge, check the stove, check the kitchen, make sure that the procedures are being followed.
What's the attraction to kosher restaurants for non-observant people?
The ambiance and the food. If a kosher restaurant can attract a non-Jewish, non-kosher clientele, they have a chance of making it. If they can't, they have no chance, because there are simply not enough people who care about the kosher part of it to support it. So, the key is to develop a niche within the general community. And indeed, whenever I walk into Cafe Aroma the majority of people there are not Jewish.