'They're eating it straight out of the container like ice cream'

Young Israeli takes bite out of New York’s high-end hummus market

Big Apple’s rich and famous can’t get enough of Ohad Fisherman’s proprietary, artisanal chickpea paste

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Ohad Fisherman shows how delicious his Hummus Joonam is. (Courtesy)
Ohad Fisherman shows how delicious his Hummus Joonam is. (Courtesy)

Ohad Fisherman left Israel for New York in late 2012 to work in real estate, but it turned out that hummus was his calling.

Hashem [God] wants me to do the hummus,” said Fisherman, who started a business supplying a proprietary, artisanal version of chickpea paste to the Big Apple’s rich and famous.

At $10 for an eight-ounce container, it really is only the wealthy who can afford the stuff. But this being Manhattan, Fisherman has had no trouble finding customers willing and able to shell out the big bucks for what is essentially a Middle Eastern poor man’s meal.

According to Fisherman, demand for his Hummus Joonam far exceeds supply. He manages to make 1,000 containers of it every Thursday, selling out by Saturday at the latest.

For American Independence Day this week, he increased production to 1,400 containers to meet the holiday demand. This included 300 containers ordered by customers who specifically planned to take the hummus out to their summer homes in the Hamptons.

According to Fisherman, 30, New York’s elite want to dip into his hummus as much as their super-size pools over the long July 4th weekend because they have discovered what hummus should really taste like.

Hummus Joonam prepared by Ohad Fisherman. (Courtesy)
Hummus Joonam prepared by Ohad Fisherman. (Courtesy)

“American hummus doesn’t even taste like hummus. It has too many spices and its texture is all wrong. It’s too heavy. You can’t even eat it without bread,” Fisherman remarked.

On the other hand, Fisherman claims that people are eating airy Hummus Joonam with a spoon right out of the container.

“Like ice cream,” he said.

Indeed, Fisherman claims he has shown New Yorkers the light when it comes to hummus. New York Post editor David Kaufman is among the converted.

‘American hummus doesn’t even taste like hummus’

“As a longtime hummus fan and a bit of a hummus snob, I can easily confirm that hummus Joonam is the best hummus in New York City. Without reservation. It’s pricey for sure. But totally worth it. Dense, yet light. Flavor packed and just straight up yummy,” Kaufman told The Times of Israel.

Although Fisherman declined to name names in terms of who is consuming his hummus, Kaufman wrote in a New York Post article this past May that Hummus Joonam fans include real estate moguls Joe Nakash and Joe Sitt, as well as reality star Jonathan Cheban and Scott Disick — both of whom have ties to the Kardashians and their social media might.

One should never underestimate the power of a Kardashian Tweet. In fact, Hummus Joonam’s growth since it began in late 2014 has been fueled exclusively through word of mouth advertising and social media outreach. Fisherman said he has Snapchat to thank mostly for his hummus’ popularity, but one should not discount this impact of a short clip posted to Instagram of a shirtless, muscular Fisherman in his home kitchen licking freshly made hummus from his fingers. It’s not for nothing that Tablet has dubbed him “New York’s Hummus Hunk.”

Fisherman didn’t figure out how to make delicious chickpea dip only after arriving in New York. Fisherman’s family owns Mifgash Hasteak, a famous, half-century-old Tel Aviv grill restaurant. Authentic hummus practically runs in his veins.

While Fisherman wouldn’t divulge his family’s secret recipe, he did share that he imports all the ingredients from Israel.

Ohad Fisherman with containers of his Hummus Joonam, which has become a favorite among the New York elite. (Courtesy)
Ohad Fisherman with containers of his Hummus Joonam, which has become a favorite among the New York elite. (Courtesy)

“That’s why it’s so expensive,” he said.

He claims Hummus Joonam is healthier than other brands because it has significantly higher protein content and contains no preservatives.

“I am able to produce hummus with a long shelf life without using preservatives because I use a process I learned about after coming to the States,” Fisherman said.

He wouldn’t say exactly what this process is, other than that it involves using pressure.

Hummus Joonam is also kosher, which is important to Fisherman, who grew up in a traditionally Jewish home. The hummus is made not only under the watchful eye of Fisherman’s father who comes over from Israel every few months to help, but also that of the kosher supervisor at the Chabad House Bowery, where Fisherman prepares his chickpea paste weekly.

Unlike other brands that can be bought at local supermarkets or bodegas, Hummus Joonam is delivered directly to customers’ doorsteps. At first, it was Fisherman himself who pedaled his product on a Citi Bike (often still in the suit he wore for his real estate day job). Now he has a few delivery guys helping him get the hummus where it needs to go.

The eight-ounce containers can be ordered from the Hummus Joonam website, or from KosherValet, a Brooklyn-based online kosher food delivery outfit. (The one exception Fisherman has made to home or office delivery is Holyland Market, an Israeli-owned store in Manhattan’s East Village, through which he distributes a limited amount of product.)

However, Fisherman does not want to be delivering hummus to people’s doors forever. His ultimate goal is for Hummus Joonam to be in the refrigerator section of every supermarket in the US.

Sabra may be the brand name Americans currently associate most closely with hummus, but Fisherman wants that to change. Somewhat ironically, his dream is that an Israeli hummus with an Iranian name will soon dominate the American market.

“Joonam is a Farsi word. It’s my nickname. It’s what a good friend of my dad’s used to call me when I was a boy. It means ‘my life,'” Fisherman said.

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