The passion and generosity of Friedman and Elcin are reflected in their soulful food and their small business
Written by Suman Ann
Ez_cookin is run by Zillah Elcin and Efrem Friedman, or as their @ez_cookin Instagram bio highlights, “Philly’s favorite cooking couple.” They are college students working towards their Bachelor’s degree at Temple’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication; Elcin is a junior communication studies major with an advertising minor, while Friedman is a junior media studies and production major.
Their journey towards cooking began in similar ways. Elcin has been cooking her entire life. When she was younger, her mother was in grad school while her dad worked nights. “I was left to my own devices to make my own food and pack my own lunches.”
She is highly inspired by her father, who is very passionate about cooking. “He learned it from my grandmom… My sense of what flavors go together well comes from my dad, and learning how to cook well, not just how to cook.”
Friedman was not allowed in the kitchen until around the age of 16, but he quickly built up an appetite for cooking, starting with the basics of cooking an egg, to larger meals like a vegetable stir fry. He draws inspiration from YouTube chefs – shows like Binging with Babish – and other internet chefs.
Since they loved cooking together, they decided to turn their hobby into their passion project by starting ez_cookin in the summer of 2019. “We really just started it not to profit off it necessarily, but to share what we were cooking with other people,” remarked Elcin.
They also wanted to start in-person cooking classes for other students because they realized “a lot of college students come to college with this pre-assumed notion that they don’t know how to cook.” The cooking classes would have equipped students to learn how to cook easy and healthy meals for themselves and further given a chance to socialize with others, if it had not been for the pandemic. The remnants of this idea can be seen in their Instagram feed that is filled with their mouth-watering creations, and dotted with instructions, recipes, or cooking hacks in the description.
But COVID-19 could not stop their passion from growing. Once they perfected baking bread, they decided it was ready for others to try it out for themselves. This past September, they started with a bake sale and then began delivering challahs, a Sabbath and holiday bread of the Jewish people; and babkas, a dense bread swirled with chocolate or cinnamon, within Philadelphia.
Friedman explained that the menu for the week is set on Mondays, and orders are taken until Thursday nights. They start baking at 4 AM on Fridays and deliver it fresh the same day. Pickup options have also commenced for customers. The response has been growing constantly over the weeks, and it has gotten to a point where “we had to figure out a limit for orders because we were getting too many orders [one week].”
Teamwork is crucial to the smooth functioning of ez_cookin, both online and offline. Elcin explained, “It all comes down to teamwork and recognizing that you’re both pillars for one another.” Even though she works three other jobs while studying full-time, she is able to manage ez_cookin with the help of Efrem. “It’s challenging and stressful, but when I need Efrem to take on a little bit more of ez_cookin, I’m like, ‘Hey, this week’s really hectic. Do you mind replying to everyone instead of me doing it?’ If he has to do a bunch of homework and there are dishes left from ez_cookin, I’ll do it for him,” she added.
When asked if they planned to branch out ez_cookin further, they said that they are figuring out their plans as they go. Currently, ez_cookin is a side hustle but as they move forward, if there is a chance for them to have their own bakery selling bread on a subscription basis, then that is something they are wholeheartedly willing to dabble in because it is an untapped market.
Elcin elaborated, “Our ideas are always evolving and changing depending on who we are, where we are, what’s exciting us right now. But that really excites me, that one day we could be doing this full-time, and it can be our main hustle.”
“As long as I can maintain [ez_cookin] as a side hustle, I will; and if it naturally seems like we gotta take the next step, we will think about it then,” added Friedman.