Our Story: Lewis Continental Kitchen
Our story begins with a young man named Harry Gilovitz, who was born in Israel and moved to Sydney with his parents, five brothers and one sister in 1927. At the tender age of 22, Harry already had a passion for good food and loved entertaining. He was always experimenting with recipes and trying new dishes, and family and friends were constantly popping over to enjoy his latest creations.
His passion for good food was shared by his young bride, Faye, whom he married in 1933. Fayes’ family were also excellent cooks and owned hotels in Newcastle and Paddington [The Bellevue]. They loved sharing a meal with friend, family and with the hotel clientele.
After a trip to America in 1939, Harry realised there was a marvellous opportunity for a quality kosher caterer back home. Naturally hospitable, the couple were constantly entertaining guests in their own home, and already had a reputation for serving delicious meals. After World War II, raw products were limited and the quality of kosher catering available in Sydney was poor – fried fish was the order of the day. Harry and Faye knew they could do better; and their ability to blend the best of Middle Eastern, European and even Asian food made them ahead of their time.
At the first function catered by the dynamic couple, a Jewish wedding, a delicious chicken dish was served as the main course – revolutionary for that time. Harry and Faye continued their kosher catering business well into the 1950s, when they decided to take a break.
Luckily, their ‘retirement’ did not last very long. Food was in their blood and during the following years they had cake shops in the city and suburbs.
Then in 1963, Harry and Fayes’ eldest daughter, Judith married Malcolm Lewis. Malcolm quickly bonded with his prospective in-laws over a shared enthusiasm for delicious cusine.
Deciding to throw themselves in the catering side of the business, Harry and Faye asked Judith and Malcolm to join them, and in 1965 Gilovitz and Lewis Kosher Catering was born, catering mostly weddings and bar mitzvahs. It was an immediate hit. Their dedication to serving only the best quality, mouth-wateringly-good food to customers, combined with an innovative and flexible approach to every aspect of their business proved a recipe for success.
The next step was to set up a dedicated base for the catering business. The idea evolved and they decided to open a retail shop, ’Lewis’ Continental Kitchen‘ at 2 Curlewis Street, Bondi, where the business remains to this day. Prompted by loyal customers who wanted to be able to buy food for their homes, not just for functions, Lewis’ was Sydney’s first take-away outlet.
The grand opening was on the Sunday of the Australia Day long weekend in January 1971. The new shop proved so popular that the local police were called to control the hordes of people trying to get into the shop to sample the hot pastrami on rye and the gefilte fish for themselves! The surrounding streets were in complete lock down, in fact the police had to turn off the traffic lights and direct the traffic! But still people flocked to the shop for a new taste sensation.
Over the years, the business has evolved and now boasts a café serving delicious beef, chicken, vegetarian or fish burgers, hot dogs, gourmet sandwiches and designer frozen meals for home-use. Local celebrities – including Marcia Hines (Malcolm’s favourite singer of all time), Barry Humphries (world-renowned comedian), John Laws (talk-back radio host whom Malcolm used to listen to every morning), and Austin Tayshus and Elle McFeast (two popular Australian comedians), have been spotted popping in for a meal or a take-away.
In January 1991, Lewis’ branched out in a new direction, supplying kosher airline meals. In 1992 they acquired the shop next door and the business expanded once again, supplying hospitals with kosher meals. Soon, Lewis’ 5-star kosher meals were available to guests staying at hotels, resorts, convention centres and restaurants throughout Australia.
Lewis’ remains a family business. Over the years both of Judith and Malcolm’s daughters have worked in the business. The eldest, Karyn, joined in 1989 and continues to have a major role in the success of the business. Most of the nieces and nephews and now the next generation of grand-children have also worked in the business.
Harry, Faye and Malcolm are no longer with us but their vision is alive and well, and lives on at Lewis’ Continental Kitchen. Malcolm’s world-famous honey cake is one of the most popular items on the menu.
Malcolm was an incredible man who was very much liked by the Jewish as well as the wider Eastern Suburbs community, with many customers taking the time when popping in for a meal or take away to have a chat or share a joke with him. Malcolm always had time for his customers, even during Yom Tov, one of the busiest seasons at Lewis’.
Today, Lewis’ vision is to take the business into the third generation and to continue to evolve and serve the Jewish and Eastern Suburbs community with innovative cuisine. We look forward to welcoming you at Lewis’.