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Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar on Ending Inequality and Exploitation in Food Systems

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About this episode

Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar are the co-founders of Burlap & Barrel, a spice company and public benefit corporation with a mission is to end inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers.

Burlap & Barrel works directly with small farmers around the world, sourcing only single origin spices. Their focus is not just on procuring the spices but also on helping the farmers incorporate sustainable practices to ensure their businesses are economically viable.

The results have been outstanding, as Burlap & Barrel has been able to sustainably procure some of the most incredible spices directly from the farmers' harvest to our kitchen. The founders share their journey of starting the company and the story behind their first spice discovery – wild cumin from Afghanistan.

Having partnered with the late Chef Floyd Cardoz and Barkha Cardoz, the company gained attention and even made an appearance on Shark Tank. Their unique approach to spice sourcing, commitment to quality, and social impact have garnered them a growing reputation.

Throughout the episode, Ethan and Ori discuss their sourcing process and the relationships they build with visionary farmers who prioritize flavor and sustainability over high yields. They emphasize the importance of visiting the farmers in person to develop a genuine understanding of their practices and establish trust.

Burlap & Barrel's vision goes beyond just providing exceptional spices; it's about creating a positive impact on farmers' lives and preserving cultural and heritage varieties. Join us as we dive into the world of spices, the stories behind them, and the difference Burlap & Barrel is making in the culinary landscape.

Where to find Ethan Frisch: 

Where to find Ori Zohar: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(2:10) Gorilla Ice Cream

(5:13) Ori’s Startup

(7:52) Why Burlap & Barrel started

(10:58) How Burlap & Barrel finds their partners

(15:32) How Burlap & Barrel validates quality

(17:44) Picking a White Peppercorn partner

(22:07) Burlap & Barrel Origin blends

(27:10) Direct to Restaurant to Direct to Consumer

(30:46) The Supply chain and commoditization of spices

(32:37) What is iru?

(35:36) The spice industry in America

(40:12) Domestic versus International sourcing

(42:01) How climate change effects sourcing

(48:08) Burlap & Barrel on Shark Tank

(55:34) Working with Floyd and Barkha Cardoz


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]: 

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


Today we're chatting with the founders of Burlap & Barrel. It's a spice company slash public benefit corp, founded by Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar. With a really unique approach to the spice market, the company is continually working towards ending inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers specifically. What that means is they use only single origin spices and they work directly with these small farmers around the world, not only to procure their spices, but also helping them to incorporate practices and measures so that they can sustain their own packaging and exporting within their own farm to ensure that their business is economically viable.


The result here is that Burlap & Barrel have been able to sustainably procure some of the most incredible spices I’ve ever tasted coming directly from the farmer from harvest to jar to our kitchen. I first learned about the company through Floyd and Barkha Cardoz when they were working on their FC Masala Blends.


They've partnered with Burlap & Barrel to produce those blends and I tried some of the products and I was blown away. I caught up with them for this episode about a week before their episode on Shark Tank aired, and most recently I just saw a couple of their spice jars on the set of The Bear season 2.


So word is definitely getting around. It would be too hard for me to call out any particular product since they're all really good, but I would just recommend going into their website,, and  seeing for yourself. In the conversation, we talk about the origin of the company, how they were able to find and work with so many incredible small producers around the world, and there's always a lot more. So I hope you enjoy


Ethan, Ori, welcome to the podcast. 

Ori Zohar [00:02:07]: 

Thanks for having us. Yeah, great to be here. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:10]: 

Yeah, excited to have you two. I think we're probably talk about it today because recently I saw your news about Shark Tanks, right? I wanna dig into that, or at least as much as you can share. I'm sure there's probably some you can't say, but maybe just to get started, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the two of you and how you got started together with Burlap & Barrel. 

Ethan Frisch [00:02:17]: 

Yeah, we've been friends for 15 years. This is our second food company together. We started Burlap & Barrel in the fall of 2016. A long story I'm sure we'll get into, but we had originally met through some mutual friends kind of in the restaurant scene in 2009, somewhere around then. I was working at a restaurant called Alan and Delany on the lower East side, or he would show up at the end of my shift and work something out and we’d wind up making some snacks in the kitchen or having drinks at the bar. We became such good friends and we decided to start an ice cream company together and activist ice cream cart flavors inspired by revolutions and political movements where we sold ice cream from a little cart at different markets and kind of on the stoops of friends restaurants around lower Manhattan, mostly in the summer of 2010.

Josh Sharkey [00:02:57]: 

What was the ice cream shop called? 

Ethan Frisch [00:02:59]: 

It was called Gorilla Ice Cream. You calling it an ice cream shop? Even so, it is a little much. But we were renting space overnight in a restaurant kitchen to produce all the ice cream. I was making all of it basically. I already had a full-time job at the time. I had left my job at Tableau where I had worked with Chef Floyd to start this. But it was an ice cream cart in New York City. You can't, you can't run it after September anyway.

Ori Zohar [00:03:46]:

We were donating our profits to the Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that was advocating for street vendor rights.Turns out they also had a frozen insulated kind of little push cart that we were able to borrow for them for that summer, you know, in kind of exchange. That was the agreement. So that got stored in the basement of my building. That thing got miles on those tires, you know, by the time the summer was over.


But it went really well and it was really fun and we got a lot of attention and kind of got to try our hands out at working together and seeing how we could kind of go from being just a friends to being business partners and see what we could do to tell a kind of interesting story about ice cream in a city that has ice cream in any single quarter, at any single bodega, in any single place.

[00:04:23] You can find ice cream around the summer, but what could we do to do something that was different and interesting and kind of captures people's imaginations. After four months of doing that and me getting three cavities, somehow we kind of wrapped up that summer of ice cream, but both just wanted to find the excuse to work together again.

Josh Sharkey [00:04:40]: 

Yeah. It sounds like it was a good testing ground for learning how to work together. 

Ori Zohar [00:04:45]: 

Yeah, exactly. It was, it was like, let's see, are we ready? Like are we ready to really do this? And in those years I'd been working in advertising at the big marketing agencies and kind of cutting my teeth, learning how to do that. But after the summer of that ice cream business, I want to do a real startup. And in my mind that meant a venture back to blah, blah, blah. And through some friends of friends, I ended up starting a mortgage company. So my background was in business and that's what I'd started studying and had all kinds of funny entrepreneurial projects, as did Ethan too, was throughout his life.

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