When the pandemic hit New York City in March, Israeli-born chefs Loren Abramovitch, Daniel Soskolne and their business partner, artist Alicia Mersy, didn't know how they would continue their livelihood and culinary project, LEV.
LEV, which means heart in Hebrew, is an "onsite cooking experience" concept. Chefs Abramovitch and Soskolne, who previously cooked at hit Israeli pita chain Miznon, now source fresh ingredients native to Levantine cuisine and cook right in people's kitchens.
"We usually would cook in people's houses, anywhere from Brooklyn to Upstate New York, from morning until night and then serve them a meal at dinnertime," says their partner Mersy.
In prior years, LEV has also fed thousands of hip attendees at street-wear festival Hypefest and party guests at Chinatown contemporary art space Larrie NYC and Red Hook cultural center, Pioneer Works.
But their entire business went on pause when stay-at-home orders began. "We didn't have a location, we didn't have a restaurant, we thought, what are we going to do?" Mersy said.
They then looked to their roots and began making homemade akka-style hummus in their Brooklyn garden to sell by the pint. The type of hummus they whip up daily is traditionally served in Palestine.
To make the hummus operation a successful business, the LEV team starts at the crack of dawn. They first soak their dried chickpeas in cold water and baking soda overnight, and wake up at five the next morning to prepare and make the hummus deliveries across boroughs before noon.
Each of their hummus pints are topped with a little bit of spicy zhug, a cilantro-heavy green sauce from Yemen. The order, which costs $18, also comes with homemade pita and a jar of tart, pickled vegetables called torshi. Soskolne makes the sourdough pitas in upstate New York over a huge, outdoor fire and transports it south to the city for deliveries.
As New Yorkers (and communities across the world) are standing up against systemic racial discrimination and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, LEV is using their hummus to raise money for a healing fund that benefits the Black community, Herbal Mutual Aid Network.
This Saturday, in solidarity with the black community and the nationwide protesters calling for justice, 100% of hummus order proceeds will go to the herbal medicine drive. The Brooklyn-based Herbal Mutual Aid Network, co-founded by Yves B. Golden, creates restorative tinctures, tonics and elixirs to support Black people suffering from anxiety and depression amid the ongoing crisis of violence and justice.
While there are various organizations putting in work for the Black community on a national level, Mersy says it made sense to LEV to also support a powerful initiative in their local community.
LEV is currently taking all hummus orders through their Instagram account.
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