Zesty Z, a za’atar, herb and olive oil spread, has a common Brooklyn origin story: Alexander Harik was working in finance and missed being creative, so he paired up with his mother, Lorraine, and started a food business. The result? This spread that’s bursting with flavor, taken right from Lorraine’s Lebanese recipe. Though Zesty Z was only launched in March of this year at the Pfizer Building–based incubator Brooklyn FoodWorks, they’re already selling at the beloved R&D Foods, as well as online, after debuting at the Fancy Food Show and Brooklyn Eats. They’re also posting great recipes on their site every week, like za’atar popcorn. Here, we have a deeper look at how the business got going and the product.
What inspired you to start your business?
I was working in the financial services industry and felt like I wasn’t using both sides of my brain. I didn’t want my creative energy to go to waste! Plus, I love eating and always knew I wanted to work for myself. So, I sat down and thought about the market for Mediterranean foods ten years ago. Would anybody have imagined the explosion in popularity of hummus, strained (Greek) yogurt, baba ganoush, falafel, and other traditional dishes that I was so used to having at home? Za’atar is next, I said to myself.
Za’atar, in its spice form, is being used in more and more restaurants around the country to season roasted meats and vegetables and in some places, it’s dusted on french fries. But za’atar is more than that — it’s so versatile, especially when mixed with olive oil, and such a simple, healthy way to add an exotic flavor to your everyday meals or snacks. Sharing a piece of my culture, that’s my inspiration.
Why is Brooklyn still a great place for small business owners?
Given its immigrant history, Brooklyn still feels very much like a community. Small businesses rely on that vibrant sense of community for support, and also rely on the desire of Brooklyn residents (or tourists!) to try fresh, creative and local products. Practically speaking, there are more property options for small businesses in terms of manufacturing and retail space.
Where do you want to see your business in the next three years?
Zesty Z on the shelves of grocery stores across the country, in the kitchens of restaurants committed to new flavors, and in the homes of hungry foodies, world travelers, creative dinner hosts, and fitness enthusiasts.
Who are the other local makers do you admire?
Widow Jane. Their product and story are authentic. Daniel Preston stayed true to his roots when developing their whiskey and brand. It’s cool that they set up shop in Red Hook early on.
Where can we find your products?
You can order online on our website. We’re selling at R&D Foods, shipping to 30 states, and are in talks to be in six more Brooklyn stores in September.
Photo by Katherine Turro