How do you stand out in a city of 10,000 street vendors?
You definitely need something special. But these seven Aussie Bearded Bakers seem to have what it takes.
Lead by Sydney architect-turned-entrepreneur AJ El-Issa (aka Papa Baker), the cult of Knafeh is coming to the Big Apple. And it promises to bake and shake up the city – literally!
“We’ve been in Sydney, our HQ, for just over three years, and thought it was a great opportunity to tempt New Yorkers with our trademark Knafeh - a Middle Eastern sweet cheese/cream dessert topped with a crunchy coating, pistachios and rose water syrup finish - think crème brulee, but lighter and creamier.
“We only do the one product - no sizes or variations. But we do it well. The only thing people tell us is how many they want.”
Clad in cool denim and sporting their signature beards, the bakers do business from a mobile shipping
container that has been transformed into a piece of food theatre. “We use social media to reveal our locations on a weekly basis. Back in Sydney, people would often travel across the city to track us down.”
Worried you’re ordering a one-trick pony? Don’t be!
“Obviously it’s about the dish, but Knafeh is not just a celebration of food. It’s actually given us a stage to promote food as an experience. It’s not unusual to find one of the bakers jump onto the bench top and break into a dance. Or serenade a customer with a personalised order. We’ve had nights with fire dancers and drummers as entertainment and filled shopping malls with flash mobs. Even on a standard evening you can find a wide range of demographics perched on milk cartons, huddled around a bonfire, sharing a plate,” says AJ.
“Right now, we’re working on some really exciting partnerships with some amazing New York brands. And I can’t wait to share them!” he adds.
But ultimately, the Bearded Bakers say they just want to share a little bit of their life (Knafeh is a family run business and recipe) with New Yorkers and have them walk away energised and excited by the experience - as much as the dessert!
Like the idea of baking and shaking with the Knafeh Kings?
“We’ve locked in a pre-launch event for Knafeh New York,” says AJ. “We’re collaborating with Blue Stone Lane Coffee (an Aussie brand with 14 New York locations), who will be doing cold-brew coffee on the night.
We also hope to donate the equivalent night’s takings to the Houston hurricane Harvey flood relief. Knafeh is all about community and Americans have been so welcoming to us, we’d love to do our bit in return.”
What: Knafeh New York Pre-launch