After chatting with Zach Grashin about hummus for half an hour, I had to go home and make myself a batch.
It wasn’t Garbanzo Bros.’ chef David Babani’s recipe. That is a top-secret component of Garbanzo Bros., the business Zach and David founded last year.
Garbanzo Bros. makes more than just hummus, offering “prepared kosher food…in time for Shabbat,” which they deliver on Thursdays and Fridays and sell at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island on Tuesday afternoons, too.
Born six days apart in different states, these “brothers” have been friends since kindergarten and attended Seattle Hebrew Academy and Northwest Yeshiva High School together.
Both spent a year after high school in Israel, with David “on kibbutz, pressing grapes and bottling olive oil,” explains Zach. David studied at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute then returned to the States, where he became a partner in Amba, a vegetarian kosher restaurant in Oakland, along with other projects in the Bay Area.
David returned to Seattle last year and worked at RN74 in downtown Seattle, making hummus on the side, “for people in Seward Park,” says Zach. “People just loved it… Someone said, ‘You guys should sell it.’”
That’s morphed into a “well-over-full-time” business for both men.
“I’m in charge of moving the product,” says Zach. “Dave does production.”
Depending on the week’s orders, “we can be working 20-hour days,” he adds.
Zach, who graduated from the University of Washington and is currently working on a master’s in screenwriting from Goddard, lived in Australia before returning to Seattle last year. Garbanzo Bros. “started in my family’s house,” but has since moved to an Eastside production facility.
“We’ve filled a unique niche,” says Zach, delivering “everything but the fish and the meat.”
They hope to add more wholesale or bulk business as they look “to spread the beans.” Speaking of which, “we don’t use canned beans.” David employs a “unique and not easy” process to cook the beans that “actually takes talent.”
They’ve even earned a seal of approval from some local Israelis. Israelis usually disdain hummus outside of Israel “on principle,” says Zach, but many here give the product a thumbs-up, including some Israeli kids who worked at the J this summer, who thought it could sell in Israel!
Find more, including a cute promotional video, at gogarbanzo.com.
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It may seem unusual for two nice Jewish boys to run a restaurant featuring food from a Muslim country, but Peter and David Ringold are the owner-operators of Satay in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, one of only three Malaysian restaurants in the city.
They were first inspired by their Aunt Maimun, a Malaysian who married their Uncle Steve and came to live in the Seattle area many years ago.
“Growing up…Maimun would cook satay and mee goreng [fried noodles],” says Peter, 27.
“We grew up eating the food,” adds David, who describes their family as multi-cultural, so it seemed quite normal.
The brothers’ second inspiration — and these guys are actually brothers — were their travels in Southeast Asia and India, where they “loved the food,” says Peter, “particularly the street food,” on which Satay’s menu is based.
Peter and Patrick McCredie, his original partner, opened the restaurant in December 2010. Aunt Maimun provided some recipes and cooking lessons, of course. Patrick since returned home to L.A., so David, 24, who graduated from Vassar in 2011, came on board in November last year.
Peter and David do much of the work, from greeting guests to “cooking, mopping the floor,” says David. They serve the eponymous satay (a grilled meat skewer served with peanut sauce), mee goreng, red curry, Malay-style fried chicken, and sell their house-made peanut sauce by the jar. (See the menu at www.satayseattle.com.)
Peter, an Occidental College alumnus, describes business as “pretty solid,” and David adds, “we’re always trying out new things and trying to introduce people to Malaysian food.” They have many Malay, Indonesian and Singaporean customers who can be skeptical when learning the owners are American. But, says Peter, “they try the food and appreciate it.” They’ve even catered events for UW’s Indonesian student organization, a ringing endorsement.
Peter and David, who grew up at Seattle’s Congregation Beth Shalom, are enthusiastic about working together. Being brothers, it gets a little complicated sometimes, observes David, “but…we are both working towards the same goal.” While they don’t share living quarters, they share many friends and a love of dining out.