iinta Cuisine

iinta’s culinary mastermind, Deke Zaher, is a true connoisseur of unique cuisine and fresh, whole food ideas.

His foremost memories of being in the kitchen start at the age of four. Zaher says during large family gatherings he was often in the kitchen with his aunts rather than playing video games with his cousins. Zaher’s favourite memory is the scent that occurs when olive oil is heated and has garlic and lemon added to it, calling it “the essence of Palestinian cooking.”

Zaher’s first public display of his family’s traditional cooking was in 1984 when he explained to his fellow classmates what was in the hummus that he regularly brought to school.

“I got tired of being the kid with weird lunches,” he says.

Zaher officially trained to be a social worker, which was his career for 19 years, where he often supervised lunch periods in schools — a place where junk food is readily accessible. Over the years he noticed correlations between what the kids were eating and their behaviour afterward, noting lack of concentration, lethargy and mood.

“Food is mood,” Zaher says. “If you’re going to eat garbage, how do you think you’re going to feel?”

Having had enough, he opened his own business, Zaher’s Small Batch, in 2016 in order to provide healthy snack alternatives that are kid friendly. He began with creating hummus but has since become an inventor of different munchies: falafel dough, chocolate sesame ganache, mystic mix and dippables.

Zaher’s personal favourites of hummus are Velvet Sunshine — a mixture of mango, orange, curry and habanero — and a traditional Palestinian flavour, XXGarlic. Though, the top selling hummus is his Dill Pickle flavour.

The falafel dough can be formed into almost anything: burgers, nuggets, crackers, falafel balls, even parmesan and waffles.

Zaher’s next brilliant idea is chocolate sesame ganache. All the ingredients are 100 per cent pure: sesame, maple syrup, organic cane sugar and cocoa. It should be noted there is no palm oil in this dessert.

Seeing as most places that develop dried fruit mixes also process nuts it’s next to impossible to find 100 per cent nut-free product. As such, he created his own! Mystic mix has cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi, ruby red grapefruit, naval orange and bartlett pear. The exotic flavours pair perfectly with the chocolate sesame ganache and has a shelf life of one year.

From there, he put the ganache and mystic mix together as a portable, healthy snack: dippables!

His artisanal products are delicious, vegan and free from nuts, gluten and preservatives. He creates them this way in order to serve a broad range of people while keeping them tasty and traditional. As someone who thinks outside the box, he “keeps things fresh” with his originality.

“Old world tradition meets new world flavours,” he says of his creations.

Zaher has been selected by FedNor (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario) to participate in the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair the last three years: 2019, 2020 and 2021.

He officially retired from social work in 2019 in order to further expand his business. He has received five nominations for the 2021 Bell Business Excellence Awards: Entrepreneur of the Year, Company of the Year, Service Excellence, Small Enterprise and Business Start-Up.


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