Expat Entrepreneurs: Honoring The Legacy of Authentic Israeli Falafel in Brno

Melis Karabulut’s series profiles some of Brno’s foreign entrepreneurs to explore the challenges of running a business in a foreign country. This week, Martina and Slavo of Falafelo share the story of how they managed to bring authentic Israeli falafel to Brno. Credit: Martina Farkasova.

Brno is getting richer and richer in culinary culture. It is not so hard to notice African, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern and Latin American food businesses becoming more visible in the town, although finding the authentic taste from such exotic and diverse cuisines right in the middle of Europe might not be an easy task. Listening to many friends from one or other of these cuisine-rich regions, I have realised that getting the this-is-it taste is important; because for them, food is more than a combination of nutrients. It is home, it is identity, it is something to own and be proud of. It is a flashback to their childhood, or a quick trip to that small one-dish restaurant in their hometown that had the best of what they miss now.

For those readers who are in search of a small, cultural restaurant with one authentic, legacy recipe that would never disappoint you, I present Falafelo: Brno’s best Israeli falafels brought to you by the sweetest Slovak couple, all the way from London to Brno!

Having troubles connecting Israeli food, London, Slovakia and Brno? Let me walk you through the story.

Martina and Slavo, the owners of Falafelo, moved to London when they were in their early 20s, and lived there for 10 years. Slavo worked with an old Israeli chef, the owner of the famous yet tiny Falafel King in Notting Hill, for many long years and learned the recipe from scratch. The Israeli owner made only falafel and took it as his legacy. The recipe was precious to him, and he never shared it with anyone else, except the young Slovak couple.

Appreciating his legacy that made crowds line up in front of Falafel King, the couple decided to bring the exact same concept to Brno, where they had decided to settle and start a new life and business. I asked why they chose to move to Brno after some solid expat experience in London. “Because Brno has a really good ‘mood’”, they said. “We did not see ourselves going back to Slovakia. It is an easy city, and is the exact size that we need. After a certain age it felt right to move to Brno, also to be closer to our families. We had a successful, good life in London, but we were also looking forward to being closer to where we are from, and being with friends and family, in a community. When we settled in Brno, it felt like finding the last piece of the puzzle, and putting it into its right place. We did not regret leaving London at all. For sure we had a great life in London, but being an entrepreneur, starting a business, finding a flat, or simply improving your life quality is easier in Brno.”

Slavo also told me that even though these are not the easiest times to start a business, Brno has been treating them better than they expected. “When we opened the business, we never thought that 80% of our customers would be foreigners!” added Martina. “Actually, an Israeli man came in the first week we opened, and while he was eating his falafel, he was also texting people and recommending our business to them. Within the first three weeks of our business opening, we have probably served the whole Israeli community here.” Slavo emphasised Martina’s point by saying, “It is so good to share the food with people who understand it, because good falafel for them means the same as a good halusky to us Slovaks. It is great to have good feedback from them. To them, our food feels like home. One of our customers said that our falafel was better than the ones he had in Jerusalem. Hearing this makes us feel very motivated, even if it is one or two or ten customers.”

As they opened up their business less than three months ago, I asked Martina and Slavo about the story of making Falafelo their space. Martina told me they started the business with very limited sources, and did not take any loans. They decided to go for the idea and not postpone it, by believing the idea and the dream. Slavo told me that at first, they struggled to find a space and build it from scratch with a limited budget. They got help from their friends and family to refurbish the kitchen and also the restaurant area, and they rebuilt the space themselves without the help of any designers or any other hired people! They sure did a great job, as it feels cozy, clean, and easy.

Falafelo before construction…. Credit: Martina Farkasova.
… and after! Credit: Martina Farkasova.

Later, I asked about the quality of their food. “We prepare everything from scratch, and our food is always fresh,” said Martina. “We do not have frozen falafel balls in the freezer, we prepare every portion from the fresh mix that we have prepared at the beginning of each day. The other ingredients that we serve with the falafel – the hummus, salad and so on, all of them are fresh, and we usually prepare these three or four times a day. The spices in the falafel, the lemon in the salad, the tahini sauce, the hummus, and the green sauce that we make from fresh coriander, garlic and Moroccan chillies all come together for a light, filling meal. The only two things that we do not make ourselves are the Turkish and Macedonian pickles and the pita, which we buy from a baker.”

Martina added that although they did not open Falafelo with a specific intention to attract plant-based customers, they have been getting great turnout from the vegetarian and vegan communities in Brno as well. “Falafel is a great combination of nutrients, you don’t really miss meat, it is a whole meal. We have been eating Falafel for 10 years in London, without necessarily categorizing it as vegan or vegetarian or anything else. We actually gained the real awareness that Falafel is vegan after opening the business here, and noticed that this could help us attract more customers, and it did. We really were surprised about the great interest from Brno’s plant-based communities.”

I asked the couple whether they intend to stick with making falafel only, or if they plan to enlarge the menu. “We occasionally make Sabich, which is also an Israeli dish made with eggplants, but mainly for events or special occasions,” they said. “Every month we organize a Sabich day here, and we serve it until we are sold out. We will expand the menu in the future, but for now, we like offering one dish – the falafel, and making it good. We know how to do it well.”

Their delicious portions come with very budget-friendly prices, ranging from CZK 119 to 159. Currently, customers can either enjoy their falafel on site, or take it home. In January, Falafelo will be on Wolt for orders, and each order will come with a delicious homemade lemonade!

Falafelo can be found at Pekařská 19, near the Šilingrovo náměstí tram stop.

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