By ELYSE ANDREWS
Photos by Mike Swartz
Josh Danoff is the type of person who can turn a tragedy into an opportunity. When he found out his dad was dying of cancer, he moved back to the East Coast from Los Angeles. Throughout the next year, he and his siblings cared for their father and realized that they worked pretty well together. After his father’s death a little over a year ago, they decided to form a business partnership and Culinary Cruisers was born.
“Going through an experience like that can kind of bring out the best in you,” Danoff said. “I know, for me, it definitely did that. And having my brother and sister there, it really helped.”
The local, sustainable, organic food movement has been getting a lot of attention in the last few years and recently, people have been taking the message on the road with food trucks. But Danoff felt that there was an environmental component missing, so he decided to create a bicycle food cart with the help of a local carpenter.
When Danoff and his siblings, Noah and Leah, first conceived the idea for Culinary Cruisers, they wanted to sell kimchi, one of their favorite foods, from the carts. After realizing that the market for on-the-go kimchi probably wasn’t big enough, they decided to focus on kombucha. A fermented tea elixir containing live probiotics, kombucha is said to have many health benefits, such as maintaining metabolic balance, cleansing the blood and detoxifying the immune system.
Originally from Amherst, Mass., Danoff was able to connect with Katalyst Kombucha, based in the region, to supply his business. Danoff now manages Katalyst Kombucha’s accounts in Boston and uses his mobile food cart as a sort of test kitchen for new flavors.
It’s not really surprising that Danoff eventually began his own food-based business. His mother and father owned and operated a natural grocery store in Amherst in the 1960s, so food and entrepreneurism were always important parts of his life.
In a nod to his father, who he called Pops, Danoff will soon begin selling popsicles from his bicycle food cart. He plans to source as many of the ingredients as possible from local sources. Danoff’s many connections from the farmer’s markets where he currently sells the kombucha will help with that.
The popsicles will be made right here in Somerville with ingredients from places like Kimball Farms, Apex Orchards and Taza Chocolate, which Danoff connected with at the farmer’s market. Some potential flavors: Watermelon basil, cucumber lime and grapefruit ginger.
“It’s just setting up all these micro partnerships that are mutually beneficial to a number of people,” Danoff said. “What better way to make the farmer’s market even smaller? We’re making small enough batches that we can tailor the ingredients to each farmer’s market so people can recognize the food source.”
You can find Danoff selling his kombucha, and soon popsicles, at farmers markets around the region. Right now, he’s at the (191 Highland Ave.) every Saturday.
“There is a really nice community of people here in Somerville,” Danoff said. “I feel totally connected. One thing that Somerville and the farmers market kind of has is that is brings people together in a real nice way.”
He recently had his biggest sales day ever at the farmers market and foresees more of that in the future. Danoff plans to bring his bicycle food cart to some of the food truck festivals happening around Boston this year and get more involved in the community.
“Culinary Cruisers as a business and a brand is really growing right now. It’s our job, but I’m working to create an environment that is fun,” Danoff said. “I live in Somerville, my business is based here, the more I can do in the community, the better.”