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A native of Argentina, Ariel Barbouth is the founder of Nuchas, a new concept in global hand held foods. Barbouth has over 12 years experience in the food industry. In his prior career as a venture capitalist, he chose promising businesses for start-up funds and found himself continually making investments into food companies. His passion for food was so strong that he soon switched from behind the desk to behind the burner. His first project was helping to launch a pasta sauce business. The savory products won over a dozen awards at the NASFT Fancy Food Show, were featured on Oprah’s O list, and are sold at Zabar’s, Whole Foods and other gourmet markets across the country and overseas.
Nuchas is a new culinary concept redefining hand-held foods for the future and is now open in its first location in New York City’s Times Square. For its debut on the world stage, the first line of Nuchas, includes traditional Argentine empanadas (a dough-enrobed with savory meats and vegetables). Nuchas will transform the South American delicacy from mundane treat to gourmet meal, utilizing an array of globally influenced high quality ingredients, innovative flavor combinations and varieties of dough.
MO: Can you tell our readers how your love of food and experience in the food industry influenced you to create Nuchas?
Ariel: I have always been passionate about food. Living in Boston and NY exposed me to an incredible range of cuisines that was not available back home, which made that passion grow even further.
My other passion has been helping small businesses get started and seeing ideas and dreams become reality. As a venture capitalist, I was able to do that across a wide range of industries, food being one of them.
Although I am from Argentina, it seems that I needed to live in the US and then move back to Argentina to really understand that there is a world of difference between an empanada and a truly AMAZING empanada. This is how Nuchas was created.
MO: Why are you so confident that an Argentinean street food will have global appeal?
Ariel: It all started with a very strong gut feeling, which has proved correct over the past few years and specially since we opened in the heart of Times Square.
It is common knowledge that if you can offer a truly great product, made fresh (baked on premises throughout the day in our case), with the best ingredients at a reasonable price in a convenient package, people will buy it.
It so happens that what you call Argentine Street foods could have all those attributes and more in one simple package.
Most gourmet stores and supermarkets as well as many high-end restaurants have been featuring a version of an empanada in their offerings for quite some time now. They are on the verge of becoming mainstream.
Over the past two months, we have had people from all over the world not only eating Nuchas (that is what we call them), but also taking pictures of our kiosk and writing about it on their blogs and newspapers.
It is something that no matter were you are from, it quickly becomes a part of you. Some sort of Déjà vu.
MO: Have you had to make many changes in the original recipe or concept for the American market?
Ariel: While the Nuchas concept was inspired by the Argentine empanada, we wanted to create something that was really original and had global appeal. While the Argentina brand have proven to go a long way, (our best selling item 2 to 1 is the “Argentine”), our product line has been developed for a global market, and we did this by making many changes to all but our traditional Argentine empanada, which is made with Pat Lafrieda’s ground beef. We offer different doughs for each Nucha (traditional, rosemary, basil, and spinach to name a few, as opposed to solely white). Our product line includes Slow Braised Short Rib, Chipotle Chicken, Jambalaya, a Vegan Shitake Curry as well as a Sweet Nucha with Apple, Pears, Cranberry and Nutella. So in a nutshell, I would definitely say that we have significantly tweaked the concept.
MO: How long did Nuchas take from conception to commercialization? What have been the biggest hurdles and greatest rewards so far?
Ariel: I’ve registered the Nuchas.com domain name in December 2006, so it has been over 5 years in the making. My one motto in life has always been, “It’s all about timing”, and only in 2009 we decided to give it a go. The hardest part was really how and when to get it started in a place like NY, without much capital. Rents can easily crash you in no time so you really have to be cautious on when to take each step.
MO: Congratulations on recently opening a food kiosk in Times Square. How does it feel to have a location in such prime real estate and what kind of feedback have you received so far?
Ariel: Thank you. I would have to use a few words to describe how it feels: surreal, amazing and bizarre. When you open the door of the kiosk and you see the ball, it’s really something special.
The feedback has been incredible on every level, both from happy customers as well as offers to bring our brand elsewhere, in the US and overseas.
MO: What are your future plans for Nuchas?
Ariel: We are on schedule to open a second location in March/April and a third one a few months after that, both in NY. After that, our plan calls for expansion throughout the Northeast as part of our brand building.
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