A couple weeks ago, I had the honor to sit down with Monica Molenaar, one of the 3 founders of Seed + Mill. Let’s make one thing clear, the 3 lady bosses, Monica, Rachel Simons and Lisa Mendelson, rock and are a true inspiration for female entrepreneurship in the highly competitive (and male dominated!) culinary industry. Besides being talented business owners, the 3 ladies are also moms, which is even more impressive.
Seed + Mill, the new addition to Chelsea Market, is all about sesame seeds. The brand offers a beautiful choice of halva (=tahini based confection, traditional to the Middle East, Turkey and Eastern/Southern Europe, like Russia and Greece) and different varieties of tahini (=condiment made of milled, toasted sesame seeds).
It was Lisa’s brain child. She is South African and grew up in Israel. When she was walking around bazaars and markets in Israel and realized she could not get these ingredients in the US she decided that that needs to change. Monica, the second founder, grew up in New York, in a Jewish family and had exposure to halva as a child. The tahini she discovered as a budding cook and food lover, she says, has little to do with what you can find in its countries of origin in terms of taste and texture. Rachel, founder number 3, hails from Australia and shares the passion for food and high quality products.
Monica reported that once she started paying more attention to tahini, she realized how versatile it is and how you can use it in so many dishes. Yep, that’s true, tahini is not only for hummus; it’s also great as a dressing, a dip, in granola, in baking, in Asian food, in Greek food – honestly, the world is your oyster with this wonderfully creamy and rich condiment that also has incredible health benefits (super high in calcium ladies!).
The partners also loved the opportunity to have a blank slate and start with a concept for a product that is underrated and just doesn’t get a lot of exposure here in the United States. In Israel and the Middle East, halva is a beloved treat and tahini is ubiquitous, although there are not many stores devoted solely to the two products. Tahini is an integral part of a lot of middle eastern culinary cultures and the truth is that it crosses borders, cultures and religions and hence mirrors the spirit of Seed + Mill, run by 3 women that come from across the world and share a passion for sesame seeds.
A wonderful part of being a business owner and a mom is to see how supportive and invested the kids are into Seed + Mill. Monica’s kids for example love to spend time at the stand after school and they love coming up with new ideas for halva flavors. It’s wonderful for the three women to be able to make a business out of their passion and even have the whole family on board. The mothers actually met through a common friend at school, so through their kids.
Seed + Mill has a range of vegan halva and all of their tahini is vegan as well. When they first started, they didn’t expect the vegan community to be so excited about their products – but how could we not??? The halva comes in different flavors such as rose, coconut and peanut butter. It tastes great as a simple sweet treat for dessert but they also make a wonderful topping on vegan ice cream and granola. You can even add halva into your brownies (little secret: it will melt in there!!). As for the tahini, which by the way is the base of the halva and made out of sesame seeds from Humera in Ethiopia, it comes in 3 types: pure (hulled), whole seed and green herb (with parsley and garlic). In addition, you can buy spices to mix in with your tahini. Check out this wonderful recipe that I created with the most deliciously creamy Seed + Mill tahini. The most essential take away from my conversation with Monica is how amazing tahini is and how it’s one of the most versatile and underused ingredients. You just gotta love these sesame seeds.
You can get Seed + Mill tahini at their stand in Chelsea Market as well as a couple places in Brooklyn. Online orders are available too. Enjoy! 🙂