About Us

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Burlap & Barrel is rethinking international spice supply chains to make them direct, transparent and traceable. We connect­ smallholder spice farmers to high value markets, we educate consumers about the impact of product traceability on human rights, and we emphasize unique products with terroir that are grown biodynamically using traditional techniques. We work to end inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled, serious artisans along the entire chain. Mainstream conversations around food sustainability rarely consider the people involved in growing, harvesting, transporting, processing and cooking food. Sustainability is discussed in terms of environmental impact, or the comfort of livestock providing meat, dairy or eggs. We believe that the standard measures of sustainability must evolve to consider the conditions in which the farmers who drive global food supply chains earn their livelihoods. Single origin ingredients draw attention to the unique environments in which incredible ingredients grow and to the farmers with the expertise and commitment to grow them well.

There are several significant challenges to Burlap & Barrel’s direct sourcing model that we seek to overcome:

  • Established industrial food supply chains are slow, opaque and outdated, spanning enormous geographic, cultural and economic distances and obscuring the many entities involved. 

  • Economies of scale value quantity over quality, consolidating products grown by individual producers from different countries and making it impossible to trace foods back to their origin. The lack of traceability increases the risk of contamination and adulteration, and reduces special products to bland mediocrity.

  • Consumers in the United States don’t effectively utilize their buying power to fight against abuse of workers and demand equitable food sourcing practices and full traceability

Our solution: Through our extensive networks around the world, Burlap & Barrel gets spices directly from cooperatives and small farms, bypassing brokers and middlemen who drive up prices and obstruct the free flow of information. We visit farms and spend time with farmers, learning firsthand about the economic, social and cultural factors driving their decisionmaking, and we support them to improve the quality and quantity of their products. We make purchase commitments to give farmers the financial security to expand their businesses without worrying about unexpected shifts in commodity pricing reducing the value of their products. 

Our customers care about cooking with exceptional ingredients. They appreciate the distinctive flavors imparted by the specific environments where our spices are grown, and they understand the importance of supporting small family farms locally and around the world. A deeper understanding of the provenance of coffee, chocolate, wine, and fresh fruits and vegetables has helped all of us make better decisions about how we eat, and how we use our buying power to advocate for better food for ourselves and our communities. Burlap & Barrel extends that value system for the first time to spices as the most flavorful element of any meal.

Our Team

We come from a wide range of backgrounds: restaurant kitchens, international development and humanitarian aid, digital marketing and advertising, cultural preservation, food journalism, international public health and graphic design. Collectively, we’ve lived in dozens of countries and speak a whole lot of languages. You may remember us from Guerrilla Ice Cream, our nonprofit politically inspired ice cream cart last seen on New York City streets in 2010.

Founder & CEO

Ethan Frisch, ethan@burlapandbarrel.com

Ethan Frisch is a native New Yorker, entrepreneur and activist around issues of intercultural communication and social justice.  A former line cook and pastry chef in New York and London, he was also the co-founder and Executive Chef of Guerrilla Ice Cream, a nonprofit politically-inspired ice cream cart. As a humanitarian aid worker, he worked with NGOs including the Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan and Doctors Without Borders on the Syrian/Jordanian border.

He has been an adjunct lecturer at the City College of New York and an instructor with the Experiment in International Living's Leadership Institute. He is honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Bond Street Theatre (www.bondst.org), which uses theater to teach conflict resolution and resilience in areas of instability around the world, and on the Advisory Boards of the student-led racial literacy and justice organization Princeton CHOOSE (www.princetonchoose.org) and the Fragments Theater, a youth theater company in Palestine. He is also on the Organizing Committee of the Queens International Night Market.

He holds a dual Bachelors Degree in Conflict Studies and Education and Social Change from the City University of New York, and a Masters Degree in Violence, Conflict and Development from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

Founding Board

Timothy Eng, Strategy

Max Falkowitz, Content

Jillian Gerstley, Sales, jillian@burlapandbarrel.com

Rizwaan Khambata, Operations, rizwaan@burlapandbarrel.com

Wangui Maina, Information Systems, wangui@burlapandbarrel.com

Shahla Naimi, Impact, shahla@burlapandbarrel.com

Ori Zohar, Marketing, ori@burlapandbarrel.com

Special thanks to Jacquelyn Morris for graphic design, Max Falkowitz for spice portraiture, and David Soto-Karlin for videography.