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 fresh—it 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.