What do Phat Farm clothing, Beyonce and Tina Knowles’s House of Dereon fashion line and kosher vending machines have in common? They’ve all been financed by Ruby Azrak, a fast-talking Brooklyn-born Syrian Jew with urban appeal. Azrak, rap mogul Russell Simmons’s business partner, has invested in Kosher Vending Industries, which manufactures Hot Nosh 24/6 — a vending machine that, in the coming months, will begin serving up hot kosher food at schools, Hillel houses, sports stadiums, airports, casinos and even prisons.
The original idea was conceived by strictly kosher, oft-traveling businessmen Alan Cohnen and Doron Fetman, who, sick of being limited to salty potato chips and stale nuts during work trips, dreamed of enjoying hot kosher food while sitting in Anchorage, Alaska’s airport. With extensive experience in both food and nonfood businesses, the two unveiled a machine that adds a seriously digital spin to the automats of yore. According to Cohnen, a computer manages the machine’s distribution and tracking; the grub is heated up through complicated digital technologies, ensuring that everything tastes fresh.
In accordance with the laws of kashrut, a certified overseer will stock the machines, and separate machines will be designated for dairy and meat products.
A dairy machine, set up on a trial basis in the Torah Academy of Teaneck, N.J., has won over students with its potato knishes, pizza and onion rings. But the machine the company is banking on most is one that dispenses grilled hot dogs in warmed buns. Cohnen himself recognized that the public might at first be dubious about vending machine-made hot dogs, but he guaranteed that they are “unbelievable”: “The hype is already so good, and, believe me, the word of mouth will speak for itself.”