Petaluma Profile: The Hummus Guy
This is the seventh in a series profiling vendors at Petaluma’s farmers markets, from the growers and sellers of produce to craftspeople and other artists.
Today’s pop quiz. What tastes great, is a good source of plant-based protein, offers key vitamins and minerals, is full of calcium, provides fiber for gut health and contains heart-healthy fats, plus is something that can help the body fight inflammation, prevent anemia and act as a mood enhancer?
If you said “Hummus,” you get a gold star.
Hummus, a spread made from garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas, has been around in the Middle East for centuries, but in the past decade has been discovered and popularized in this country.
Adam Knaak, 42, is the pleasant, smiling man many Tuesday morning shoppers know as The Hummus Guy. Please note that he’s not the owner, but works six farmers markets, selling hummus and its crispy sidekick, pita chips.
Knaak’s been a chef or worked in the grocery industry much of his career. He had two restaurants in Sebastopol, the Pesto Bar Café and Alice’s Restaurant, the latter named after Arlo Guthrie’s well-known satirical talking blues song. When singer-songwriter Guthrie played in Sebastopol, “We invited him to eat at our place. We shut down the restaurant, put up a giant table and fed everyone in his group.”
When The Hummus Guy hired him, Knaak said, “I didn’t expect him to say I’m sending you to farmers markets. But he said, ‘Trust me.’ I trained with the previous guy, who said I could make it successful, and it’s been fun. My son got his first job through this.” Laughing, he added, “He’s more successful than I am.”
Knaak has now been sharing the pleasure of hummus for almost nine years.
“I’ve learned that the longer you’re there, the better you do the job,” he said.
When he’s not hummus-ing, Knaak helps a friend with a catering business.
“It’s fun to be in the kitchen,” he acknowledged. “It keeps my skills sharp.”
Currently, the company is offering nine different hummus flavors, including original, garlic and chives, red pepper and avocado-cilantro. But, Knaak said, “We’re working on having it be more like 12. We’re trying to make one for everybody.”
Asked what he most enjoys about the farmers market, Knaak answered, “I like the same thing I’ve always liked: getting recognized as being top notch. It’s always a delight. As a chef I got to hear ‘Your food is the best’ all the time from customers. One couple wasn’t able to go to France for their honeymoon, but they told me, ‘Your food was a million times better. It whipped France’s ass.’
“And,” he said, “I still get to hear that.”