Jay Eidelman, left, and Adi Kabazo serve up plates of hummus at the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival earlier this month. (photo by Lior Noyman Productions)
It was Camp Miriam that brought Vancouverites Jay Eidelman and Adi Kabazo together, but it was hummus that ignited their competitive spirit and, ultimately, their new business together, Hummus Express.
Kabazo is an Israeli business and marketing consultant who came to the city 14 years ago and really misses the whole experience of hummus in Israel. “As any Israeli who moved here can tell you, we know what the good stuff looks and tastes like when it comes to hummus, and we crave the experience of sitting in an often-loud place, enjoying a plate of hummus with some warm topping as a meal,” he said. “It’s a truly fulfilling experience in many ways, and we miss that.”
Eidelman is a Montreal-born writer and editor who teaches in the University of British Columbia’s summer school and describes himself as a foodie. “Montreal is a big food city with great Mediterranean Jewish-Israeli cuisine,” he reflected. “I spent significant time in Israel and loved treating myself to a meal of hummus on Friday mornings when I was studying at Hebrew University. It’s a fond memory and one I wanted to recreate.”
The two started discussing the best hummus in Israel while on a work weekend at Camp Miriam, and then started making and comparing their respective hummus recipes. “As we were doing this, we thought, maybe it could be a business,” said Eidelman. “For me, this was a passion and a dream that I want to see fulfilled.”
In August, the pair took a trip to San Francisco to check out its hummus scene and returned inspired. They invested in some equipment and, just before Rosh Hashanah, started making hummus in the kitchens at Congregation Beth Israel and at Temple Sholom. Today, they offer hummus and a few vegan salads, pickles, sauces and breads on order, and sell their products at various community events and festivals. Knowing how many restaurants open and fail, they’re moving slowly with their small business.
Of course, there’s hummus already in Vancouver – anyone who frequents a grocery store will tell you that. “But ours has no preservatives and is not meant to have a shelf life of weeks or months,” said Kabazo. “It’s smoother, creamier and has a different quality and flavor.”
The pair uses chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt in their recipe, importing their tahini and taking care not to add any extra fat or chemicals.
“Ours is a very natural hummus and we like it served as a meal, with a warm topping like Adi’s shakshuka or my eggplant salad,” Eidelman said.
Their toppings are exclusively vegan and vegetarian and there are no plans to create any meat toppings in the future.
Kabazo and Eidelman hope to have some pop-up locations by renting a restaurant for a day and offering an Israeli, hummus-centric breakfast. But, for the time being, they’re making hummus once a week and scheduling tableside sales of food-to-go at events including the Eastside Culture Crawl, which runs to Nov. 20, and the Chanukah party at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver Dec. 4.
They’re immensely grateful to Beth Israel and Temple Sholom for providing them with access to their kitchen facilities and giving them community exposure through various events.
“We’re doing events like last weekend’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival [Nov. 6], where we fed 200 hungry movie-goers with hummus prior to the screening of Hummus! The Movie, and we’re relying heavily on social media to spread the word,” Eidelman said.
Deep down, Eidelman knows he and Kabazo are offering a much-needed product that carries a combination of memory, tradition, taste and skill.
“If Vancouver wants to be a world-class city, there’s an element missing, and that’s world-class hummus,” he said.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.