“I came across this variety of wild cumin in Afghanistan and started bringing it home to share with my friends,” Ethan Frisch says of the origins of Burlap & Barrel, the spice company he founded with his friend, Ori Zohar. “The foundation of our friendship was our shared love of food.”
The pair met through mutual friends in Manhattan over a decade ago when Ethan, a chef by trade, ran a speakeasy supper club out of his Chinatown apartment. That shared fervor led them to establish their first business together—an activist ice cream truck that sold revolution-inspired flavors and donated all profits to the Street Vendors Project.
In 2017, they founded Burlap & Barrel, which specializes in single-origin spices. They partner with small farmers from Turkey to Tanzania and source ingredients that range from mint grown on the Euphrates river to cinnamon from Zanzibar.
“It’s really fun to meet people on the other side of the globe and break bread with them, sleep on the farm and get into their day-to-day lives,” says Zohar. Frisch adds, “The commodity supply chain doesn’t work for farmers, doesn’t work for cooks and that’s what we’re changing, establishing true partnerships.”