Chris Kirby, owner of the Ithaca Hummus Company, pops the lid off of a large plastic bucket. Inside, thousands of small, dried chickpeas wait to be poured into an industrial-sized pot. Hoisting the bucket above the scale, Kirby pours the beans in until the pot weighs roughly 18 pounds. Kirby then transports the pot to the stove top and lights the burner.
Kirby, a 27-year-old Cornell University student studying Hotel Administration, runs his hummus company in a small kitchen at Long Creek Road in Ithaca. Usually a one-man operation, Kirby launched his hummus company in September 2013. Since then, Kirby has created two new flavors of hummus — spicy chipotle and lemon and dill — in addition to his original lemon and garlic recipe.
The Ithaca Hummus Company also recently received their first restaurant account with Corks & More, a local wine and tapas bar. Kirby’s hummus is featured on Corks & More’s mediterranean plate. Additionally, Kirby participated in the Cornell University Hospitality Business Plan competition on March 22 and was awarded second place.
Finding the right match
Kirby said he has been approached by several investors, however he has yet to partner with someone. He explained that the issue with expanding his company outside of Ithaca is the shelf-life of his hummus.
“Because the ingredients are fresh and contain no preservatives, the shelf life is much shorter than other hummuses like Sabra or Tribe,” Kirby said, lifting up a container and showing that particular tub will expire on April 12.
While he remains open to investors, Kirby continues to sell and promote his hummus around many Ithaca area locations. Kirby said the new hummus flavors are very popular among Cornell students, especially those involved in Greek life.
“Fraternities at Cornell University really enjoy the chipotle hummus because they can eat it with tortilla chips and other foods,” he said. “We aren’t a slave to the pita chip anymore.”
A hummus unlike any other
Ithaca College sophomore Marianna Dunbrook agrees in that Kirby’s hummus is a versatile product and can accompany many different meals and snacks.
“I would dip green and red peppers in the hummus, but I would also really enjoy it on a sandwich,” she said. “The lemon and garlic hummus has a subtle yet delicious flavor. I really love it.”
Ithaca College sophomore Tucker Mitchell has tried Kirby’s hummus and found the recipe to be pleasantly surprising.
“At first it tastes like any other hummus, but then I realized it’s like something you would make with your family,” Mitchell said. “It’s fresh so it doesn’t taste like other store-bought hummuses.”
Though Ithaca Hummus is available at many locations around the Ithaca area, such as GreenStar Natural Foods Market, P&C Fresh, Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery, the product is yet to be available at larger grocery chains like Tops and Wegmans.
“I would buy the hummus more often, especially if it was available at Wegmans,” Mitchell said.
As the chickpeas continue to boil and electronic dance music echoes off the kitchen’s walls, Kirby continues to weigh out the raw chickpeas to make more hummus for his hungry local customers.