Oftentimes the greatest ideas are discovered by accident. Take Llance Kezner and his wife, Lori Peha Kezner, the founders of Garlic It!, their new garlic condiments produced in five flavors, as a case in point. Their “Private Reserve Caramelized Garlic Finish” won a “Sofi” award for best new product from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade in January. Things have been going gangbusters since.
Llance’s background is in high tech, and Lori is a kindergarten teacher at the Jewish Day School. They enjoy cooking and their product was born from the bottom of a jar, so to speak, after a Shabbat dinner.
“Lori was just cleaning up,” Llance says, when she took “a spoon and put it in the bottom of the jar” in which Llance had made salad dressing. She pronounced the marinated garlic clove she found there “incredible” and they decided the could sell the stuff.
Standardizing the taste was the biggest problem. Writing down a recipe “sounds easier than it is,” says Llance. It took “hundreds of tries.”
In 2009, Llance was laid off and he now devotes himself to the company full time. Their big break came when they signed up that year to demonstrate their product at the Taste Washington wine and food show.
“The most I’d ever made was 32 ounces in my kitchen,” he says. “Now we were talking about 40 gallons!”
It was a hit.
The caramelized product began in a similar way. Llance burned some garlic and Lori again tasted it and liked it. Llance was unconvinced that people would eat “burned” garlic, but they did, and they have.
As newbies in the food business, the Kezners found others in the industry open to sharing information. They also discovered that people are “extremely passionate” about garlic.
“I put it on the same level as coffee and chocolate,” Llance says.
Lori and Llance are Seattle-area natives who attended Rainier Beach and Inglemore High Schools, respectively. They have two kids and belong to Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregatoin.
Their products are available at almost 300 stores nationwide — and by mail at their website, www.garlicit.com — with the exception of the caramelized garlic, which is available only at specialty stores.
And since you were wondering, yes, Llance is spelled with two Ls.
“My dad’s lucky number was six,” he says. Llance’s last and middle names had six letters, the extra L was added to match.
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Montreal native David Kogut is just starting his third year teaching at Seattle Hebrew Academy and his second as a fellow of the Yeshiva University “YUTeach” program. Part of the Institute for University-School Partnership, YUTeach places recent college grads as day school teachers across North America with funding from the Legacy Heritage Fund.
As one of 17 recipients of two-year teacher training fellowship, David will also receive a master’s degree at the end of the program.
At the academy he’s teaching first grade Judaic studies in the morning and “the rest of my day I’m the music teacher” for all grades. This lets him vary his approach, with the little ones learning Shabbat songs and the fifth graders making music videos. He’s also started a middle school glee club.
While attending Concordia University, David sang with a rock band and says music has always been an important part of his life.
“I was a hazzan for different synagogues in Montreal when I was living there,” he says, filling in when needed.
Growing up at Modern Orthodox Beth Zion in the Cote St. Luc neighborhood, he has been a youth director, Bar Mitzvah tutor and Hillel outreach director in his hometown.
“I’ve always been immersed in the [Jewish] community and surrounded by it.”
David and his wife, Danielle Ellbogen, moved here three years ago when Danielle took a job at Microsoft. They live on Capitol Hill in Seattle and they are active in the Capitol Hill Minyan, where David serves as chair of the board. The couple have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son who occupies most of their free time, although David says that as a hockey fan he tries to play once in a while (not a lot of opportunities in Seattle, sorry!) and attend the occasional game here or in Vancouver, B.C.