Guy Mozes, Dori Mozes & Lior Benador | Sir Hummus
From London's Maltby Street Market to an Amsterdam bicycle delivery service,
has been perfecting
its hummus recipe along the journey it took its founders, brothers Guy and Dori Wozes and Lior Benador, to finally reach a permanent residence in De Pijp. We spoke to the
three of them about their journey and what it is that makes their hummus such a stand-alone dish. -
Interview and photos by Hannah
How did the hummus thing start?
Guy: I used to work with big consultancy company but found myself wondering whether this was ‘it’. So I started applying to smaller companies and it was whilst I was writing cover letters that I suddenly thought, why should I write these to someone else, why not just start up my own thing? I’ve always been obsessed with food so that was the obvious place to start, even though I’ve never had the balls to be a chef. I started playing with the idea and then one of my flatmates told me about this great market – Maltby Street Market – which had really only just started happening at the time. Vendors were starting to leave Borough Market because it was getting political and Maltby was the next thing. We managed to get a table there and it just happened. We [Lior and I] filled a spot and one thing led to the next, although nowadays that would never happen. You’d never get in. When we started it was middle of winter and I was working five days as a consultant and then making hummus in the evenings.
Wow, what was it like working at a market?
Guy: It took a good six months for people to start loving what we were doing and all the time we were tailoring what we had on offer to what people were buying.
Lior: It was great though; we had every opportunity to improve our recipe, just by giving it to people to taste and watching their faces.
Guy: It was also really valuable to have all the traders around us. Maltby was really the most ground breaking food scene in London at the time. We could watch what those around us were doing and learn from each other and create stuff. That’s something I don’t really see here. There it was amazing. And after about a year, and Loir had almost finished school, we made the decision to do this full time. We knew we couldn’t stay at the market. It was just too variable. Plus we’re from Middle East so we have to be warm. I have immense respect for traders: our first day was in the snow.
And why hummus exactly?
Guy: My university buddies always joked I should open a hummus place and I was like guys, I have a career. But then we remembered this when we started thinking about what we should do. Initially we thought we’d make salads – something fresh, ready-made to reach into the fridge for when you’re hungry. But when we thought about the logistics and timing, hummus was really one of the only things we could do. So we started off just making little pots to take home and then progressed to plates of food.
How did you make the transition to full time?
Guy: Lior and I had studied in the Netherlands before we’d moved to London and when we moved, we felt we’d lost out on quality of life. Simple things like cycling to work and having good drinking water – those were just gone. Plus we knew there wasn’t anything to do with hummus here whereas hummus bars already existed in New York and Berlin etc. So we thought ok, we’re going to move back. That was about 1.5 years ago and brings the rest of people into picture... What I’d learned from working at the market was that one can’t succeed alone. So I asked my brother to be my partner.
Dori: I was studying at Tel Aviv University but had always been a part of it all from day one in a way. But then Guy and Lior quit their jobs and were talking about moving countries and I thought well, why not? I could start my life here and own my own business rather than go down usual route.
So you’re all in Amsterdam by now. Then what?
Dori: We spent a lot a lot of time looking for a place. We weren’t ready to compromise and saw over 70 places over 7 months. We were on our bikes every day, checking the Internet, spreading the word. People thought we were crazy.
Lior: People did think we were crazy but we also hear a lot from people that they would have liked to do something like this. They say, oh, I also had a dream to open a hummus place. It’ s a fantasy for people to do something of their own and we’re the ones who did it.
Guy: And people thought we were especially crazy because we were ‘just’ making hummus. But we still didn’t have a place after 4 months and so we decided we had to do something. So we set up a delivery service.
A bicycle delivery service for hummus? That’s very Amsterdam!
Dori: Yes. We wanted to meet people face to face in order to get the word out. So whilst we were looking for a place, we’d come home, make hummus, take our bikes out to deliver and meet the people. During that time we came up with a name, a story. People came to really appreciate what we were doing.
Lior: A lot of the people who we delivered to are still our best customers.
Guy: Yeah, they pushed us to where we are today. They admire us for doing it and they love our hummus.
When did you find this place?
Lior: One of our clients was a café (Sugar and Spice on the Zeedijk) and it turned out there was an opportunity to do a pop-up there. They were closed on Mondays so we could use the space, which was really cool. Once again, we could experiment and see people reacted to what they were eating and see how a place could work. So we did that every Monday during the summer until we found this place. We found this in September 2014.
Guy: The place was totally empty so we had to do everything, but we got nothing but love from everyone. We’d met so many people during our first year and they encouraged us. We found incredible people to work with and they still help us. Our contractor just brought us this table today [pointing]. He found the sewing machine legs on the street and put a top on it. Actually everything in here was either made for here or found on the street. The Dutch throw all kinds of great stuff away.
That’s really great that you’ve had so much support from the neighbourhood.
Lior: So great. And so much support. For instance, during the renovation, we thought, ok, we have a network, maybe they can help us by donating stuff they don’t need – plates, cups, tables etc. So we invited people to bring anything they could.
Guy: Yea, a sort of crowd sourcing for inventory.
Lior: And this way they’re also kind of part of the place. It’s theirs, too. We’re really local. We didn’t announce anywhere that we were opening, just took the paper off the windows. It was the neighbours that were the first to come.
Guy: The corner wasn’t looking too great before, and people are really happy we made something of it.
What are your thoughts on Amsterdam as a city?
Guy: There’s so much to do here, we’re sorry we don’t have time to do more. Especially in food: the people that do food here normally aim high. The lower end, as in good food at good value like what you can get so much of in Berlin, doesn’t really exist.
Lior: We‘ve lived in a lot of places and I know that this is where I want to live for good. Sure, there’s bad weather but there’re so many good things. The lifestyle is great, it’s really relaxed.
Guy: When we came back, we made a conscious decision to learn Dutch. To be a part of it all and that really helps. It’s important to understand what’s going on around you. So now we always say there’re only two problems with Amsterdam: the weather, and the lack of hummus, but we’re sorting out the latter.
Can you tell me about the hummus you make?
Guy: We have one hummus, made of only five ingredients. The rest is part chemistry, part art. And playing with it and experimenting. There’s no one-way to make it. What I’ve learned though, is if you want good hummus, you can’t cut corners. That means using really quality ingredients. For instance we import our tahini, which is 100% sesame. The seeds are toasted and ground through rocks. The cold process makes it mellow – less bitter. You can either eat it plain or with one of two toppings. The first is with a magic egg, which is an egg that’s been cooked for 10 hours to give it its creamy, almost buttery yolk. The second is with slow cooked beef - that’s our twist because the European mind thinks that if there’s no meat, it’s not a meal despite hummus being all protein.
And hummus’ story?
Guy: We’re from Jerusalem but our hummus isn’t. I’ve lived most of my life outside of Jerusalem and made my first hummus in the states where I was living at the time. Everyone in the Levant has their own version of and it’s a food memory that I have from childhood. Traditionally people in Middle East have it for breakfast, warm. It’s full of protein and breaks down really slow in your body so it keeps you going during the day. It’s a working mans’ food. In Israel it’s more of a brunch lunch thing. In Jordan it’s 8 a.m. kind of thing. They just make one pot and when it’s done, it’s done. We do that too. We open at 12 and at 7pm if it’s gone, that’s it.
Thanks Guy, Dori and Lior for this interview! Stop by Sir Hummus at Van der Helstplein 2 in De Pijp, open Tuesday to Friday from 12 to 7pm and Saturday and Sunday until 5pm, and be sure to follow them on Facebook .