Spreading Out

Garlic. It’s a fundamental vegetable used for centuries as a condiment, flavouring or for traditional medicine purposes. One

Islander using garlic for years is Ryan Abdallah, the owner of Cedar’s Eatery in Charlottetown. And it’s become his passion to spread his love of garlic across Canada.

“It just kinda became this obsession, more than a project, you know, same as a painter paints a canvas, this is my life and I just kinda started painting my own, and before I knew it I had something down on my canvas and I was like, ‘okay, I gotta go sell this now. I can’t just stop, I’m already this far.”

The canvas Abdallah is referring to is The Original Maroun’s Garlic Spread and like many great works of art, it has taken years to come to fruition. Nearly a decade has passed since Abdallah first thought about getting the tasty spread to a wider audience than his restaurant customers.

“I got a couple jars from the dollar store and I paid a designer to make a label. I still have them, I kept them, just because, wow.”
After that initial idea was born, it took a few years before Abdallah began seriously pursuing his dream of taking the garlic spread to market.

The Original Maroun’s Garlic Spread//Submitted Photo

The spread is named after his father, Maroun, who owned and operated Cedar’s Eatery for decades before passing the torch to his son. Abdallah says his father originally had the idea to take the garlic spread that was a staple at Cedar’s, and get it into the hands of customers.

“My parents picked at it a long time ago, […] and they realized that it was going to be a lot more work, […] they already had the restaurant and three kids and they were just like, ‘we don’t know if we can do it.’” As he relates the story, you can see he understands the challenges they faced. “It’s great, but it’s a lot of hard work and you don’t ever stop, there’s never, ever a time where you lock the door and you go home and you’re not working.”

Used in many of Cedar’s Lebanese dishes, what is currently sold across the Atlantic provinces at Sobeys, Foodland and Co-op stores is essentially the same in-house recipe. “It had to be changed a bit, cause when you scale up, you can’t just put two times everything or ten times everything,” Abdallah says. “In the end, it was pretty much identical. Like, one of the best parts was as soon as we got to market, was people coming up to me, or calling me or emailing me and saying, ‘Hey, it’s like what I get at Cedar’s’. I’m like, ‘yeah, good, that’s the idea.’”

Abdallah credits both BioFoodTech and Canada’s Smartest Kitchen with helping him grow the business. “They’ve been a huge help. When I first wanted to expand the business and didn’t know how to go, they kinda helped me figure out what was the most feasible way to grow in the food business, outside of these walls.” Abdallah rents space at BioFoodTech and hires staff to produce the spread. The winner of the Food Island Partnership’s first Food Excel competition last winter, he credits his win with bringing momentum and attention to the product.

After working with Sobeys to get the garlic spread on their shelves, Abdallah isn’t stopping to take a breath. He and his wife, Laura, have been travelling to Maritime stores promoting the spread with in-store demos and sampling. He is also looking ahead to the larger markets of Ontario and Quebec.

And Abdallah’s not planning to stop with one product. “I have a line of products that I can put out and I’m hoping to do that but I really want to make a large impact and get pretty big brand recognition before I do that. I want the Maroun’s name to be very well out there before I try and start selling other ingredients.”

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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