Shortly after Manal Kahi, 32, immigrated to the United States in 2013, the Columbia University graduate student found herself longing for a taste of the hummus she grew up eating in Lebanon. Disdainful of the options in American grocery stores, she began whipping up her own, based on her grandmother’s recipe.
Much to Manal’s surprise, the homemade hummus was a success, meeting with praise from friends and family, including her brother, Wissam, 44, who suggested they bring her recipe to the mass market. But the duo wanted to do something more than just sell their culinary creation. This was 2014, and with a full-blown refugee crisis raging in Syria, the Kahi siblings wanted to help those who were being displaced. So together they started Eat Offbeat, a New York catering company that serves ethnic cuisines—and hires refugees to make it happen.
Since founding Eat Offbeat in 2015, Manal and Wissam have worked with the International Rescue Committee to give refugees from around the world a chance at a better life, expanding their team from 2 to 30 in the process. The business, based in Long Island City, New York, generated more than $1 million in sales over the past year.
In this interview, Manal and Wissam share how they started, what makes their food offbeat and the key to the hummus recipe that inspired it all.