Tastemaker: Zoey Shamai
Zoey Shamai is a fervent Dragon’s Den supported entrepreneur from Toronto who’s enraptured by the healthy life. Fusing her love for fresh, healthy eating into the production of her unique line of Tonica Kombucha, this traveling yogi has truly found her calling…
Feed us an appetizer. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Zoey, the creator of Tonica Kombucha. I found this incredible tonic while teaching yoga in the South West mountains of New Mexico. I fell in love with it over there but wasn’t able to find it anywhere in the city, so I started to brew it for myself, and soon for my yoga students, friends and family.
What do you love most about the health food industry?
I love the industry because it’s creating all the delicious foods that I love to eat and stand behind. Clean, nutritious foods are the fuel for healthy living and I’m very happy to be part of this community and create a business built on these values.
Plus, whenever there’s an industry gathering, you know there’s going to be something amazing on the menu.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…it’s my home! I love that we can have beautiful parks and farmers markets alongside a bustling economic community that is, for the most part, supportive of creative endeavours.
How long did it take you to develop your recipe?
The original kombucha recipe was actually developed in 221 BC. My first version of that recipe was created six years ago in my kitchen, but in the past three years I’ve tweaked it to develop a line of six different flavours: Ginger Rapture, Green Tea Revival, Vibrant Blueberry, Mango Passion, Peach Resolution and our original black tea-based Nude Brew.
What was it like pitching your company on Dragon’s Den?
It was awesome! I spent the month before my pitch preparing with lots of friends in different fields and everyone was really helpful. When I actually walked on stage I was pumped and ready. I was nervous, of course, but as soon as I saw the dragons I felt like all I had to do was let it flow.
The actual taping was much longer than the five-minute edit aired on television. It was really quite fun to field the dragons’ questions and present Tonica. They loved it! I was probably out there for about 25 minutes, so it was really neat to see how they edited the final segment for TV. They did a great job.
After the show we received an overwhelming response from viewers asking where they could get some Tonica. It was great to get so much positive feedback.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
In general I love fresh living foods and lots of sauces and dressings to coat them in! I shop at independent grocers near my home like Fiesta Farms, Nuthouse, and shops in Kensington Market.
I also love raw burgers (made of walnut, sunflower, fill in the seed or nut…) wrapped in kale or swiss chard, that can be found at most “living food” retailers or cafés. I know it sounds strange but they’re perfection! I also love the Singapore Slaw at Lee, and the burdock burrito at Live Food Bar is delicious.
What’s your hidden gem/go-to restaurant?
I used to waitress at Momo’s at Harbord and Spadina. They have the best tabbouleh and lentil soup ever.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I had the most amazing communal meal experience in Fort Lauderdale at Steve Martorano’s Yo Cuz!
What do you think lies ahead for the future of health food in Toronto?
I think it’s going to be incorporated and absorbed into mainstream grocery. Everyone wants to feel good and there’s more and more understanding that eating well is a big part of that. The industry is being shaped by consumer demand and that is trending towards healthy, organic, GMO-free foods, which is great news!