There’s nothing that sparks more joy for me then happening upon a new kitchen must-have, especially when it instantly becomes a cooking staple. Graza was founded by Andrew Benin to support his love of cooking and his belief that everything tastes better when olive oil is involved. I couldn’t agree more. Here, Benin explains why he launched the brand, how he likes to prepare his favorite foods and more.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve read or heard recently?
In the Phoenician era, an olive oil’s quality was judged using a scale of coughs emitted after it was taste tested. More coughs equaled better oil. So, if you coughed three times after tasting a new harvest, you could probably trade the oil in for a new camel.
What do food and cooking mean to you?
I had taken some baby steps into the food community with roles at Magic Spoon, staging at Gramercy Tavern and working at farmers’ markets in New York City, but the big leap was living in Spain for three years. We usually romanticize such experiences in the Mediterranean, and our little capitalist minds try to bottle up the Southern European charm and sell it as a premium way of life stateside with premium price tags. I was observant of my wife’s family in Cadiz, and they used olive oil so liberally and frequently in their cooking. It just stood out as the glue to all things in the kitchen.
Similarly, I think food and cooking are the glue to our most cherished experiences with friends and family. Graza is meant to be a small piece of that, not tied to one cuisine or type of cooking but rather the brand that removes the unattainable luxury attachment of really good olive oil to make for a more fun cooking experience.
Why did you decide to launch Graza?
My cofounder, Allen Dushi, and I realized that North America became the dumping ground of olive oil as brands are either bougie and prohibitively expensive or low-quality and blended. Graza is the answer to this problem with its price point at no more than $20 per bottle. We’re on a mission to make never blended, single-origin and high-quality extra virgin oil more accessible and affordable for everyone. Graza is special, but it shouldn’t be. It should be the standard.
What makes Graza different from other olive oils?
Graza offers a delicious single-varietal extra-virgin olive oil for a competitive price point that encourages use and enjoyment — Sizzle for cooking and Drizzle for finishing. Both oils are packaged in first-to-market squeeze bottles that draw inspiration from chefs and restaurant kitchens and are meant to be used liberally. We’re incredibly transparent and only sell from the most recent harvest and never blend our oil. Most brands that attack the widespread problem of rancid and fake olive oil are at a significantly higher price point and are only accessible as a luxury. Graza is meant to be used!
Do you have a dish you like to Drizzle?
There aren’t many dishes I don’t like to Drizzle! You name it, I’ve probably tried it: pizza, popcorn, pasta, eggs, sandwiches, ice cream — the list goes on. I even went so far as to create my own take on a box of cereal, but Graza style. In a nutshell, it was a bowl of delicious crunchy bread doused in EVOO. Our team affectionately refers to it as Breadies.
Are there any exciting announcements or collaborations on the horizon?
Graza will be the first brand in history to launch a canola competitor made from 100% non-chemically processed or refined pomace oil. No hexanes or solvents. We call it Frizzle. The launch date is still to be determined, but it’s coming! We’ve got our eyes on some special fishy collaborations later this year, too, and can’t wait to bring those to life.
Is there any advice you’d like to share?
Olive oil makes a great moisturizer. My cofounder recently had a baby, who has had some patches of dry skin. It works very well and smells great.