Tomer Dagmi, in November, was named Kashrus Magazine’s 12th annual Mashgiach of the Year and received a cash award of $1,000. Dagmi works as the mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, for the Atlanta Kashruth Commission in Fuego Mundo, an upscale Latin American restaurant located in Sandy Springs.
According to Rabbi Yosef Wikler, the magazine’s editor, “Kosher food is a basic in Jewish life and cuts across many of the dividing lines of our people. The mashgiach is an unsung hero of kosher, working long hours to preserve the kosher status of the foods we eat.”
Mashgiach work varies and includes slaughterhouses, caterers, nursing homes, manufacturing, as well as restaurants. They deal with maintaining proper temperatures – like turning on pilot lights – vessels, chametz during Passover, market trends, verifying hechshers, and checking shipments. A mashgiach must be an observant and Torah studying Jew. There are 1,493 kashrus agencies worldwide. All were asked to submit one or two supervisors to be interviewed for this award. A mashgiach must take a formal course and pass a test to become certified. Dagmi noted that even a rabbi must go through this same process; and there are indeed female mashgiachs in the Atlanta area.
Dagmi, an Israeli who has traveled extensively and settled in Atlanta to raise a family, is known by his co-workers as very dedicated. Wikler elaborated, “The very first quality which a mashgiach must possess is dedication to his job and respect for what he does daily during long hours, usually 8-10 hours or more. Tomer Dagmi loves his job for three reasons: It offers him a chance to do G-d’s work…to Tomer, making sure that Fuego Mundo patrons eat kosher is holy work, so holy that he designed a prayer which he recites daily before he proceeds to inspect the vegetables which the restaurant uses to ensure that they are bug-free. No easy task!
“The second reason that he loves his job is because it offers him a way to listen to recorded Torah lectures while he works at checking vegetables for the restaurant. And the third is that it offers him a chance to educate Jews in the kitchen about a whole host of issues, and to build respect for Orthodox Judaism among the workers.”
Having toured Japan, Thailand, India, and France, Dagmi gained exposure to different cultures that helps him relate to the staff at Fuego Mundo.
“The patrons come here in great number for two reasons — the great food that you prepare and serve, and the high quality of the kosher that we have here. This way, all the workers see themselves as a team, complementing each other,” Dagmi said.
Previously living in Israel, Dagmi worked in undercover security for large stores to prevent shoplifting. At Fuego Mundo, he also maintains a watchful eye and has had to report that a worker had not obeyed the rules which are in place at the restaurant. One time, a worker snuck in some non-kosher dairy food for her own consumption. Another time, Dagmi spotted an open bag of romaine lettuce in the cooler. He investigated and discovered that the grill man had needed some lettuce for an order. Finding none in the kosher-checked pile, he simply removed a few leaves for his customer. In both instances, Dagmi had to report the activity, and both workers were let go.
He said, “As nice as one tries to be, the bottom line is that the kosher rules must be followed. One of the craziest things I had to deal with was an infestation of ladybugs. Often times, depending on the season, there are different bugs and beetles that are found in vegetables. The most difficult things to clean are cilantro, parsley, romaine lettuce, and strawberries,” he said.
When asked what he likes most about his job, Dagmi said, “All of it. I get to do good deeds all day and to go about studying Torah on my phone.”