Go Ask Mom

Knish-a-licious: Food business serves up Jewish delicacy

Jamie and Michael Eliahu have a lot going on. They're north Raleigh parents of two young boys. They have busy jobs - Jamie is a Realtor with Allen Tate, Michael is a financial analyst. And, if that's not enough, they run a food business - Knish-a-licious

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Knishes from Knish-a-licious
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Jamie and Michael Eliahu have a lot going on.

They're north Raleigh parents of two young boys. They have busy jobs - Jamie is a Realtor with Allen Tate, Michael is a financial analyst. And, if that's not enough, they run a food business - Knish-a-licious, serving up knishes, an eastern European baked good that includes a filling, often potato, wrapped in dough.

Brought to the United States by immigrants in the early 1900s, according to Knish-a-licious's website, knishes are a staple in delis and hot dog carts in New York and other cities. But, until the Eliahus launched their business, they were just about impossible to find around here.

Knish-a-licious will be at two upcoming events - the Cary Jewish Cultural Festival from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., March 19, at the Cary Arts Center, and the Jewish Food Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 23, at The Levin JCC in Durham. They'll start serving up knishes at local farmers' markets next month. And, they offer a catering service for special events. Their website has more information.

I checked in with Jamie, a Raleigh native, to learn more about Knish-a-licious. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: How did you get started in the food business?
Jamie Eliahu: Mike always had a dream to own a real New York-style diner. He really loves food and diners are one of his favorite places to eat. When we moved to Raleigh, he kept talking about different food businesses. He started trying to make bagels.

He played around with it a bit, but they didn't hold up well and we do have bagel stores here. He didn't do anything for a while and then one day there was an article in the New York Times that was basically talking about "What's Old is New Again."

It was talking about the beginnings of what is now like a "Jewish Food Movement" where lots of foods our grandparents and great grandparents made and ate has been revitalized into a food that people of all ages want to eat today. So we kept talking about it and I said, "What about knishes?"

We can come up with all different types of fillings. People would probably really like that. Mike thought it was a good idea and started to research dough making. He worked really hard to perfect his dough. We tested the dough and different flavors for about a year before we launched our business.

My grandma, who was about 90 at the time, helped us perfect our onion recipe, which is a key ingredient in two of our fillings. People would show up at our house to get knishes and then they would seriously rate them and tell us what they thought. Once we got a recipe we thought was good, we started applying to farmers' markets and we started working in a commissary kitchen to produce and store the knishes. We were accepted to the Midtown Farmer's Market at North Hills and started selling. Our first day was absolutely crazy. People came from all over to buy knishes. Knishes are a food that people have great memories eating, and we were able to recreate that same comfort from their past.

GAM: For those who don't know what it is, tell us what a knish is.
JE: A knish is an eastern European pastry. It is a very thin dough wrapped around a filling. We offer three different types of fillings including classic potato (potato and caramelized onion), sweet potato (reminiscent of sweet potato pie and our ode to North Carolina) and kasha (toasted buckwheat with caramelized onion. The last one is my personal favorite. Knishes are similar to perogies, empanadas, and samosas from other cultures.

Knishes are either round and baked like ours or square and fried. Ours are also vegetarian, dairy free and kosher.

GAM: This all started just a few years ago. How has the business changed over the past year? What's been the response?
JE: The business is constantly changing. Our first year, we were really trying to figure everything out. We met a lot of people and tried hard to get people who didn't know what a knish was to just try it. Now we are going into year three knowing that people are always out there looking for us. Whether they had tried knishes before or not, we have made a name for knishes in the Triangle area and beyond. This past year, we did our first event in Greensboro, which was extremely successful for us.  We hope to continue this momentum for many years to come.

GAM: How can people find you?
JE: We keep our schedule updated on our website (www.knish-a-licious.com) and our facebook page (www.facebook.com/knish-a-licious). Our main markets are the Midtown Farmer's Market at North Hills, which begins again in April and the Downtown Cary Food & Flea. We then do lots of other events and festivals throughout the area. We also do catering for Weddings, Bar & Bat Mitzvahs and any other event where food can be served. We make a smaller party size knish for these events that are perfect for hors'doevres.

GAM: What's your hope for the future of Knish-a-licious?
JE: Right now, we are taking things one day at a time. We both still have full time jobs along with Knish-a-licious. We have lots of aspirations for the business. We would love to be able to ship throughout the United States. We would also love to be able to have our own food cart and expand our menu. Our biggest goal though is to continue to grow and solidify the knish as a new staple in the Triangle.
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