Local gay entrepreneur Joey Ghattas says his new fresh-food business specializing in authentic Lebanese spreads and appetizers is the culmination of a family dream.
He says his late father’s lifelong aspiration of starting a hummus company inspired him to start Garlic Garden Fine Foods, which has already attracted a strong following largely because of its many varieties of the popular chickpea-based spread.
“This was kind of [my father’s] dream . . . he always wanted to start a hummus company,” Ghattas says. “When he passed away, in 2008, was when I really started trying to figure out how I could do that.”
While Ghattas has been making this food his entire life, it appears he couldn’t have picked a better time to start his company. Hummus, in particular, is growing in popularity across North America, largely because of its high protein content and big flavour.
“All of a sudden, hummus became very on trend — it’s listed as one of the top foods for 2015. We thought what better time to launch this business,” says Jesse Reynolds, a local comedian and Ghattas’s partner of more than 10 years.
In addition to the classic recipe, Garlic Garden makes an array of unique hummus flavours, including savoury bacon and chive, cumin curry, three olive and southwest chipotle, with more flavours promised in the near future. The company also cooks up a range of Lebanese classics, including baked donair loaf, rolled grape leaves, tabouleh and pita chips.
Since opening in September, the west-end business has won acclaim for its freshly made products and commitment to using locally sourced produce whenever possible — the garlic used in its hummus comes straight from Ottawa’s Mariposa Farm. That local element represents a major component of the company’s allure, Ghattas says.
“Health-conscious people, especially, are always looking for something that’s fresh [and doesn’t have] preservatives and GMOs,” he says, noting that he’s already eying several farmers’ markets and local events to sell the company’s products, including the upcoming Live the Smart Way Expo in April.
Freshness appears to be the key ingredient at Garlic Garden, perhaps proving people are willing to wait for a good thing. A message on the company’s website advises customers to allow 24 to 48 hours for production. “It’s that fresh,” the message says.
Ghattas says that made-to-order aspect separates his hummus from its refrigerated, grocery-store counterparts. Hummus, he stresses, has historically been made for quick consumption rather than sitting on a store shelf for days. Whether it’s the fresh products, local produce or tasty flavours, Garlic Garden appears to have found a winning recipe with customers.
Despite being in business for only a few months, Garlic Garden has already been nominated for a People’s Choice Business Award with the West Ottawa Board of Trade, and Ghattas says he’s in talks with a local grocer to stock some of the company’s products.
“I think when you really put your mind in it and if it’s your true passion, anything is possible. I think Garlic Garden has proved that,” he says.