Nicola Crowley Of Mezze On Her Passion For Adventure

By Robert McHugh
Nicola Crowley Of Mezze On Her Passion For Adventure

Robert McHugh speaks to Nicola Crowley, co-founder of Mezze, 'a dynamic space for foodies with plenty of personality.'

Husband and wife duo, Dvir Nursery from Israel and Nicola Crowley from Ireland, met when they were on holidays in New Zealand.

The couple share a passion for Middle Eastern cuisine and always dreamed of opening their own food enterprise. From humble beginnings working in Nicola’s mother’s kitchen with Dvir cooking up a selection of his favourite dips, salads and breads they started to turn their dream into reality.

In September 2015, Mezze was launched using a small pop-up tent and borrowed equipment at the Waterford Harvest Festival.

In 2019, the couple opened a bricks and mortar establishment in their hometown of Tramore, Co. Waterford. They had been working diligently at festivals, farmers markets, doing pop-up dinners and cooking classes for a number of years before achieving this.

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Since then, Mezze has won numerous accolades including the All-Ireland award for Best World Cuisine at the Irish Restaurant Awards and the couple have even published their own cookbook.

Hospitality Ireland recently caught up with Nicola Crowley, co-founder of Mezze, for an exclusive interview. Crowley talks to Robert McHugh about meeting her husband in New Zealand, the origins of Mezze and how to combine entrepreneurship with creativity.

You celebrated five years in business this year. What have been the highlights?

Having a small business is a bit of a rollercoaster but the highs, whether big or small, keep you going.

Highlights are winning the All-Ireland award for Best World Cuisine at the Irish Restaurant Awards, self-publishing our cookbook 'Middle Eastern Food Made to Share', Dvir making appearances on national TV, (Nicola) publishing recipes in the Irish Times, and demoing at Electric Picnic and festivals around the country.

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Also, most recently celebrating five years in business with our friends, family, team, and customers who all have a part to play in keeping our business going.

Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.

I grew up in Waterford, studied Spanish and Sociology in UCD and I had dreams of teaching English in Spain.

On my travels in New Zealand, I met Dvir from Israel who studied Biology.

I moved to Israel and we both found managerial jobs with our love for food growing at home by throwing gatherings and parties.

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What first drew you to hospitality?

We always loved cooking for people. We have a love for good food and it brings us joy to bring people together to share food.

What was your first big role?

In hospitality, probably owning our own place! We opened a cafe and I'd never made a coffee before! It was a steep learning curve!

However, I had been a business development manager and Dvir worked as a logistics manager in Tel Aviv so that put us in good stead for running a business.

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Who was your first mentor in hospitality

When we moved to Ireland from Israel, we took a start your own business course through Waterford Area Partnership and our mentor Seamus Hayes really set us on the right path.

You can make many mistakes starting out and he was such a knowledgeable person who gave great advice.

Please tell us about Mezze – the ethos, food, service, etc.

We make simple food with lots of Middle Eastern flavours. We take inspiration from Dvir’s Syrian and Egyptian roots as well as the street food from Israel and most importantly his mother's food.

We source as much as we can from local producers and growers. We make weekly specials and salads for our mezze plates from vegetables our growers have. We are constantly changing the salads even though the basic menu stays the same.

We work on a daily basis to reduce our food waste by creating new salads to use up fresh produce, using clean veg peels for making stock, and preserving our lemon rinds for cooking with.

As we are a deli, we are pretty casual with service. We don't do table service so our customers order at the counter and collect when it's ready either to sit-in or takeaway. That way we concentrate on the food prep and our customers don't seem to mind.

What are the major challenges at the moment?

As with most businesses at the moment the rising costs have been a challenge, VAT increase, minimum wage increase and costs of everything from ingredients to rent.

What are the main opportunities?

We've taken advantage of every opportunity we've had the past five years which to be honest exhausted us!

Now we really want to make the most of our small deli and grow offerings like catering and our online shop.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

We live in the seaside town of Tramore in Co. Waterford so we like to go for swims, Dvir surfs and I kayak when we can.

Unlike most hospitality businesses we decided to close Sundays and Mondays so we enjoy spending time with our kids and friends on Sundays and catching up on house jobs, exercise and office work on Mondays.

Favourite meal?

Sounds corny but Dvir eats falafel every day. When eating out it's seafood.

For me, it's Dvir's mother's dinner - loads of salads, dips, main courses of fish, beef and chicken with rice and more salad.

Favourite drink?

For Dvir it's gazoz, a sparkling drink we make in Mezze with fermented fruit syrups.

For me, as an Irish woman I can't go beyond a cup of tea.

Favourite holiday destination?

We would love to go back to New Zealand with our two kids and show them where we met.

We love camping and travelling in our campervan so hiring a camper there would be a dream.