Here’s how much it actually costs Parallel to make its signature truffle hummus
“House-made” can be a bit of a shtick—a term restaurants attach to everything from bread to pickles to ketchup to imply additional quality and value. It’s much more than a menu buzzword at Parallel, where the in-house production of a single food item is the cornerstone and star of the Geary Avenue restaurant’s entire business model.
“We’re a factory,” says owner Aharon Ozery, pointing to the manufacturing area on the second floor, where a mill grinds away at sesame seeds. “We produce our sesame butter here.”
Parallel packs its sesame butter, or tahini, into jars and buckets sold through retailers like Fiesta Farms, the Sweet Potato and the Big Carrot. It’s also an ingredient in just about everything on Parallel’s menu, from smoothies to the $16 truffle hummus.
Ingredients: $5.65. Parallel’s sesame seeds are from Ethiopia; they’re more expensive than seeds from India, Nigeria or Sudan, Ozery says, but nuttier and sweeter. The seeds produce the tahini that gives the hummus—at $1.72, the largest single cost in the dish—its creaminess. The hummus base is topped with soy-marinated mushrooms ($1.05), even more tahini and chickpeas ($0.68 and $0.57), spicy cilantro-parsley schug ($0.36), lemon-chili dressing and truffle oil ($0.18 each). Parsley, cumin and smoked paprika add $0.11. It’s served with two pitas from Ozery Bakery in Vaughan, which can be purchased at cost—$0.40 apiece—because the bakery is owned by Ozery’s father and two brothers.
Labour: $2.80. Making sesame butter is a lot more work than simply feeding the seeds into a machine. The seeds are first steam-roasted at a separate facility. At Parallel, they are colour-sorted to remove too-dark seeds, fed into the milling machine, ground to a paste, transferred to a pasteurizer, heated to 85 degrees Celsius then packaged. A sample from each 90-kilo batch is sent to a lab to test for yeast, bacteria and salmonella. And that’s all to produce just one ingredient—there’s also the cost of restaurant service, and making the restaurant’s other house-made ingredients, like the schug.
Overhead: $4.83. The Ozery brothers own the Parallel building, so the big fixed monthly cost isn’t rent, but a repayment on a large loan taken out to buy the building, gut it and replace plumbing, electrical, vents and everything else imaginable. And then there’s the $80,000 sesame mill—a big but essential investment.
Profit: $2.72. Every bowl of truffle hummus, with its 17 per cent margin, helps Parallel come closer to breaking even. The Ozery brothers have big plans for the business, including a rooftop garden to grow produce on site. And they were not going to invest their money and effort just to be evicted by a rent increase once their lease came up for renewal—especially as this once-industrial strip of Geary Avenue becomes one of the city’s most unlikely dining destinations.