This week marks the first anniversary of Za’atar Bellingen. For those of us who’ve indulged in Za’atar’s hummus and falafels, this milestone is one worth celebrating. And if you haven’t indulged, why not?
Nissim Boshari is Za’atar’s affable owner and chef. His menu reflects his wonderfully interesting heritage. “I was born in Israel, a country where many of the people come from all over the Middle East, so the street food of Israel is a variety of flavours from different cultures. Za’atar reflects this in its menu by serving food from these many Middle Eastern countries. Also, growing up in a family with Yemen, Egyptian and Libyan background, my cooking uses a lot of Yemenite spices- this is my signature,” says Nissim.
Nissim has relished his first 12 months in Bellingen:
“I’ve always felt so supported by the community and can say that the people in Bellingen are the nicest customers that I have come across.”
It was time to chew the fat with Nissim and find out how Bellingen became home.
Nissim what brought you to Bellingen?
My wife was born in Coffs Harbour and brought me here with her when we were about to start a family. Her parents still live in Coffs in the house she grew up in.
Has the past 12 months in Bellingen been a good experience for you?
My experience has been really rewarding. To see what I have built and mostly the friendships I have made. I’ve always felt so supported by the community and can say that the people in Bellingen are the nicest customers that I have come across. There has certainly been some challenges along the way, particularly with trying to balance work and spending time with my family. I have 3 small children ages 5, 2 and 1.
What did your work involve before settling in Bellingen.
For the past nine years I’ve been travelling around Australia selling food at all the major events, including Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest, Falls Festival, Rainbow Serpent and Womadeliade. Working in festivals is intense but full of good vibes. Everyone at a festival is having fun. I feel blessed to have worked in this industry for so long serving food and being able to sneek a few awesome music gigs in along the way. My dream was always to open a hummus place in Melbourne, but I met my wife at one of the festivals and she brought me here to the Shire. I opened Za’atar Bellingen because my wife and I decided that we didn’t want me to be away from home so much. So when I saw the opportunity open up in Bellingen to pursue my dream of a hummus place, I went for it.
Are your recipes old family favourites?
I’m always asking my Mum for her recipes and to help me with dishes. The shakshuka, cuscus and Moroccan fish are some of hers, while the Yemen chilli is my grandma’s recipe.
What is your cooking background/training?
My first job was in a pizza place in Israel and I’ve worked in many places along the way before entering the catering business about 10 years ago and cooking for thousands of people at festivals.
What is your signature dish?
Definitely my falafel & hummus. I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting those dishes.
Do you have a secret ingredient?
Good intentions while cooking and my special mix of yemen spices.
Describe how you will celebrate your 1st year anniversary at Za’atar
We are going to celebrate at Za’atar on the 15th of June with some live music from local Joe Newton. To mark the occasion we will also be giving a free glass of wine with every meal.
Your best memory of childhood was?
Shabat dinner. Every Friday night we would dress up and gather all the family for a special Jewish dinner. Each week my mum would ask my siblings and I which food we wanted, either Yemenite soup or cuscus and mafrum. There was always so much food, colour and good times.
Your best sporting moment was?
When I was 14 I went to a soccer game in Tel Aviv with a crowd of 40 000 and ran onto the field during play. I proceeded to get the ball and kick it into the goal and only missed scoring by an inch when the goalie dived and intercepted my ball with his fingertips. I was then chased by 3 policemen who all fell down trying to chase me on the slippery grass, but was eventually caught by one of them. My biggest fear was what my Mum was going to do to me when I got home.
What would you like to be remembered for?
What are you reading right now?
Childrens stories to my son and daughter, in Hebrew.
What are you listening to right now?
I always like to listen to reggae and variety of ethnic music.
What really annoys you?
When people eat their pita pocket with a fork.
The last big belly laugh you had was?
My son and I had a good laugh recently when he paid me out about my accent. My wife thinks it’s sexy.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m in the process of getting Za’atar Catering off the ground. I’ll be offering catering for private functions such as weddings and other parties. On the home front I’m building a cubby house with my son in the backyard.
How do you relax?
I listen to music when I come home from work.
Favourite TV show?
The previous career you wish you could forget?
When I travelled in Australia in 2005 I did some dishwashing work at the bakery. My hands are still numb from cleaning those trays!
Favourite holiday destination & why?
Israel. To connect with my family and friends and speak in my language. Also to watch my mum cooking and eat her food.
In the Movie Nissimgate, who would play you?
Probably Brad Pitt, if he could speak Hebrew.
Don’t miss the 1st year celebrations at Za’atar Bellingen