Casual Chats with Andrew Benin
A little background on how we got here!
by Andrew Benin | Graza co-founder
Hello! I’m Andrew! Thanks for finding this blog post! I guess our website user experience is working!
As you might have guessed, I’m pretty much obsessed with Olive Oil. It’s become quite annoying to my closest friends and family. I cannot have a conversation without bringing up Olive Oil at least once. I just can’t help myself. A fruit juice that dates back as far as history goes that makes everything you cook taste better? And it’s extremely healthy? And the places it’s grown are visually stunning? I mean c’mon, does it get better than that?
A few years back, I was living in Spain at my wife’s family’s house in Cadiz (If you haven’t been, you are MISSING OUT). I was in between jobs (worse places to be unemployed than southern Spain…), and after a few stick shift driving lessons from my mother in law, I hopped in her Opel Corsa and went exploring.
I made stops all over the Sierra de Cadiz, the land of Payoyo cheese and some incredible unfiltered local olive oils. Now, this next drive from Cordoba to Jaen, is a visual you must see with your own eyes. I’ll try to explain anyway. You are driving through a magnificent landscape, rest stops offering the best home cooked meals you’ve ever had, and Olive trees everywhere the eye can see. I mean 4 hours of magnificent Olive trees.
On that trip, I feel like I tasted olive oil for the first time. It was time to head back to my in-laws, with a LOT of olive oil in tow. My family in Spain thought I had totally lost my mind, speaking about olive oil 24/7, but my wheels were cranking. We even set up a tasting in their dining room with 10 different oils (want photo evidence? check it out here).
Pilar and I packed up a few cases of oil in our checked luggage en route back to Brooklyn (we are known to travel with our dog Bamba, cat Tippi, and a lot of checked bags of olive oil). I thought I had figured it out, and my first stop was at Gramercy Tavern (if you haven’t had their burger, go right now). I’d struck up a friendship with Executive Chef Mike Anthony over the years, and I wanted him to try all these crazy oils I found. Here we are, sitting in the dining room of a Michelin star restaurant, tasting olive oils, sitting on top of the world. And that’s when Mike put me in my place. He made it clear that the world didn’t need another purveyor of small batch, super fancy, super EXPENSIVE olive oil from Europe. What would be the point of that? Another super exclusive olive oil that most people cannot afford? A supply chain that can’t scale into mass distribution, so everyone had a place to shop? NOPE.
Flash forward a bit. I met my co-founder Allen. Grace and Kendall joined our team. The most talented creative agency came on. A supplier that believes in us enabled our scalability. We all set out to build a new type of olive oil company.
One that is not rooted in deceptive marketing. One that is not tied to one cuisine (shoutout Suerte ATX as our first restaurant partner). One that is fun as hell to use (squeeze bottles say whattttt). One that is not bougie or egregiously expensive. One that is MADE TO BE USED. One that serves up the freshest 100% never blended, no bullshit, can stack up against any of the worlds “gold medal blah blah blah olive oils”, picual, straight from the source, Olive Oil.