EyeSwoon

  • Eden Grinshpan — where do I even begin? To know her is to love her. To know her is to fixate on her becoming your one and only BFF. To know her is to laugh your ass off at all times and for her to bring out your kookiest, most playful self. And to know her is to eat some of the most delicious Middle Eastern food. And now, BFF or not, you can eat her amazing fare at her newly opened fast-casual restaurant DEZ. Located in the heart of Nolita, DEZ was co-founded by Eden and Samantha Wasser, who was also the woman behind By Chloe and The Sosta, This newly minted downtown eat-in or takeout meal is an absolute  must in my book!

    Eden and I met, and subsequently feel in love at the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic 5 years ago. Having bonded over a love of cooking and Mediterranean food, we made a pact to cook together as often as possible. Well, the rest in history  — our time together in the kitchen and out have been peppered with some of the most gut wrenching, hilarious moments, which I am so grateful for. If you don’t follow her on Instagram, you must because she is just the funniest food-lover I know!

    Eden has become one of my nearest and dearest. A sounding board in the food community and someone I look up to and admire for not only her unabashed silliness, but also for her ability to take life and make the most of every moment. She has taught me to take risks and create opportunities that don’t even exist yet. Eden is the type of woman who dreams up precisely what it is she is after and wills it to reality. She has an idea and she goes for it. No questions asked, no second guessing. With joy, with confidence, and always with a sense of humor.

    DEZ became a reality simply because she was dreaming up this fast-casual concept in her head for years and serendipitously walked past a By Chloe, one day and thought — hmmmmm, these guys are doing it right, I’ll just email them! And now, we are all reaping the rewards of her intuition, follow through, and simply trusting her gut in more ways than one. You go girl — we all have a lot to learn from you.  Perhaps when we are feasting on your delicious Baba Ganoush, you can give us some tips on setting intentions and following through. Chef, friend, guru — Eden Grinshpan. I love you girl! So thankful for you and for DEZ!

DEZ

Q+A

  • Eden Grinshpan, DEZ Chef/Co-founder

    • How would you describe the food you create at Dez? What is the core value represented in the food? 

      I’m half Israeli and I’m absolutely inspired and drawn to Middle Eastern flavors. My love for those flavors are at the core of the DEZ menu. I also wanted to create a menu that you can eat any time of the day and numerous times each week. The food is bright and freshit packs a punch. But you should feel good after you finish your meal. No one should be rolling out of DEZ – we want you to be dancing out of DEZ.

      Tell us about the fast-casual format of Dez. 

      I love the ease of fast-casual formats. The branding of DEZ is warm and welcoming, so having a fast-casual set-up enhances the vibe of the space and design. We wanted the food to be affordable and accessible because I feel like Middle Eastern food and the DEZ menu epitomizes a balanced diet because so many of the dishes star vegetables. We want people to dine here and feel like they are living a healthy lifestyle while also enjoying delicious food, but guilt-free.

      Your favorite dish at Dez? Most popular? 

      I love the Carrot mezze – they’re spicy, candy-like carrots that have been roasted with honey and harissa and are served on tangy labneh with the nutty dukkah spice-blend. There’s so much going on in this boldly flavored dish.

      The most popular dishes are the Jeweled Ricewith Baharat Grilled Chicken and the Shawarma Burger. Some of our diners are obsessed with the Jeweled Rice!

      Can you share the story about how Dez initially came to be?

      I’ve had this restaurant concept in mind for a long time and decided to try it out at a pop-up in Brooklyn a couple of years ago. People responded well to the food and were excited about the concept. That experience gave me the confidence to move forward and around the same time I serendipitously happened to be walking past a by Chloe. I said to myself “those guys know what they’re doing.” So, I reached out and before long I was meeting with by Chloe. founder Samantha Wasser about partnering to open a restaurant. We hit it off and were completely on the same page. That first meeting led to us working together to open DEZ, which has been and continues to be an awesome experience.

      Who is your customer? What do they want and how was the menu and design geared to them?

      Our typical customers are people like Sam and I, hard-working millennials. The menu is so appealing to this demographic while also being distinct from other fast-casual concepts because at DEZ we still offer that romantic aspect of sitting down to a meal that’s beautifully presented. We offer a fast-casual price point with the vibe of a full-service restaurant. The dishes are thoughtfully presented by my team and I, the space is warm and inviting, and the playlist is super catchy. And yet, it’s still a casual spot that people can eat at day after day. The menu is light with a ton of vegetable options, but you still feel like you’re indulging because the flavors are so bold.

      Your ideal meal is…with…Oprah, who wouldn’t say her? Or Ellen DeGeneres, she is amazing.

      Food trend you partake in? One you wish would go away? 

      I love the trend of creative soft serve and frozen yogurt flavors. At DEZ, we offer a new soft serve frozen yogurt flavor each month. September is tahini soft serve with tahini-chocolate-walnut cookie. But I’m not a fan of the gigantic milkshake trend. You know people aren’t eating all of that – people are just buying it for the photo and that’s a waste of food. And if they are eating all of that, they’re having way too much sugar.

      What inspired you to you become a chef and what was the genesis to where you are today? 

      I didn’t start out wanting to be a chef, though I do love food and cooking, and I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in London and ICE in New York. I loved learning about cooking, but the restaurant industry is just so difficult to work in and the hours are crazy, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that for a living. So, I got into TV, which I loved because it involved going into people’s kitchens, learning from them, telling their stories and getting to travel. All things that I’m passionate about. But it also got to a point where I craved the creativity involved in working in a kitchen. And the more time I spent in Israeli, the more I wanted to be involved in the Middle Eastern food movement. That really pushed me to get into the restaurant industry and cook professionally.

      Can you share your connection to Middle Eastern flavors? 

      I’m half Israeli and have gone there nearly every summer of my life, so my experiences there are a major influence on the food at DEZ. I’m also super inspired by Persian cuisine, including Persian food I grew up eating in Toronto, which is a very diverse city. I became passionate about Moroccan cuisine by picking up Moroccan cookbooks and reading about the traditional ingredients and dishes. All those experiences inspired DEZ’s menu and led to our fresh takes on Middle Eastern dishes.

      Five ingredients you couldn’t live without? Tahini, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lemon, garlic and onion.

      Eden, this is your first restaurant. What have you learned in the process? 

      It’s all about the people. The most important thing is to find partners you work well with, who push you further, who understand your vision, who motivate you and who are on the same page with you. It’s so important to surround yourself with a strong team because a restaurant requires so many people to be successful, it’s not just one person, everyone has to come together. It really does take a village.

  • Samantha Wasser, DEZ Co-founder/Creative Director

    • Sam, can you speak about the branding of Dez? And the brilliant IG account?

      In terms of design, I wanted to create an oasis that combined the ease of California with the colors of Morocco. When I’m building a restaurant brand, I think about every detail, from the table tops and packaging for each menu item, to the merch and bathrooms. It was important that DEZ’s branding be playful and fun, while appealing to a wide audience.  My goal was for DEZ’s branding and design of the space to complement the colors and vibrancy of Eden’s cooking and really feel like a unique destination for our customers. The Instagram is an extension of the brand and is such an important, integral, and free tool that if used correctly, can help organically grow and strengthen your brand.

      Tell us about the bathroom and the fun collateral at Dez.

      DEZ’s bathroom has become a fan favorite thanks to the custom metallic desert mural.  In all my restaurants, the bathroom has always been a fun moment to do something different and make it a fun surprise for customers, and their selfies.  Our collateral at DEZ was one of my favorite things to develop, we have swag available both in-store and for shipping nationwide on our website including Tie-Dye Tees, Slap Bracelets, Bucket Hats, Color-Changing Water Bottles and more. Eden and I are both 90s’ babies, so the fun, colorful style of that decade was 100% our inspiration.

      Sam, what have you learned from your other restaurants that you were able to take to Dez?

      Every opening has taught me something that I have been able to bring to the next restaurant – both good and bad.  Details like the ideal size for a table, or the layout of a dining room to best accommodate a line at lunch time, are always really helpful takeaways and details you best learn through doing.  More than that, though, I’ve learned how much of an impact fast-casual dining has had on the restaurant industry, providing more healthy and affordable options to an increasing demand from diners. Our goal with DEZ is to serve that group and to think about them and their needs with every decision we make.

Fire-Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate, Za’atar Olive Oil and Fresh Herbs

Eden Grinshpan

  • Ingredients

      • 2 eggplants
      • 1/4 cup garlicky tahini*
      • 1 tsp kosher salt
      • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
      • pomegranate seeds
      • pomegranate molasses
      • fresh mint
      • fresh basil
      • za’atar olive oil (In a bowl combine 2 tablespoons za’atar spice with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; stir until blended)
  • Method

    • Heat a grill (high heat). To note, you can also use the burner on your stove, just be sure to line with tinfoil.

      Score the skin of the eggplant. Place on a very hot grill for 30 minutes until the skin is black and the eggplant has deflated, is fully cooked and has developed a smoky flavor, making sure to turn the eggplant several times on the grill.

      Let cool on a strainer so all the juices drip away. Once cooled, removed the skin from the eggplant meat and place in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the garlicky tahini, fresh lemon juice and the kosher salt. Mix with a whisk until all is combined. You may need to add more garlicky tahini depending on the size of the eggplants.

      Place a cup full of the dip into a bowl and using your spoon to spread it so there is a well in the center. Drizzle around a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses on top, then 1/2 tsp of the za’atar olive oil. Sprinkle on pomegranate seeds and garnish with leaves of fresh basil and fresh mint. Serve with warm bread. If you can’t find warm pita, challah works great too.

       

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