Watch CBS News

SOS Chefs: Obscure Ingredients For Curious Cooks At Atef Boulaabi's East Village Spice Store

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For owner Atef Boulaabi, SOS Chefs is more than a spice store.

"It's a repertoire of notes and a library of texture and smells," she said.

Since opening in the East Village in 1996, SOS has gained a reputation for providing obscure ingredients to a clientele of New York City chefs.

It's also frequented by home cooks looking to experiment and transplants hunting for the flavors of home.

"We welcome everybody. We are kind of the United Nations," Atef said.

On floor-to-ceiling shelves sit items like sesame seeds soaked in plum juice and protein powder made from squash seeds.

Examining the fragrant imported herbs, spice blends, and condiments, customers find windows into history and culture.

"Really, we are the product of our origin, so when you smell a product, you can have really a good idea about the place where it comes from," Atef said.

A native of Tunisia, she says she was practically born with a bottle of olive oil in her hands.

"It was very organic for me to really introduce the products that I grew up with and that are very dear to me," she said.

At SOS, she takes pleasure in telling stories and sharing feelings through spices, curating experiences for customers.

"I always go for making them taste products, and I think they understand what I'm trying to tell them, that I like them, that I enjoy having them in my store," she said. "It's a language by itself, so I'm very happy to know this language."

SOS Chefs
104 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 505-5813
https://sos-chefs.com/

What's something few people know about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.