The Flatbush-based spice maker Breukelen Rub creates fine seasonings named after East and Central Brooklyn neighborhoods
What’s the “flavor” of East New York? And how “spicy” is Brownsville? It’s spicy, Chef Jamaal Dunlap and Isalia Lebron, the husband and wife team behind Breukelen Rub, know. Their Flatbush-based spice brand produces artisanal seasonings and rubs, inspired by Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Jamaal Dunlap, a seasoned chef who currently works at the fine dining restaurant Butter in Manhattan, has always been passionate about creating flavors, said his wife. In 2017, they decided to turn that passion into a business and launched Breukelen Rub.
Dunlap created Breukelen Rub’s first spice blend last year; he named it East New York Blend in honor of the neighborhood he was born and grew up in. The East New York mix is a guajillo pepper-based all-purpose spice which has a “mild yet robust flavor” and can be used in various cuisines, and is ideal for barbecues and even on French fries.
Last month, Dunlap introduced the Brownsville Blend, a very hot blend which is a careful balance of 21 ingredients and includes bird’s eye chili, Carolina Reaper, ghost chili and other exceptionally hot peppers. The Brownsville Blend does not only work well with Jamaican jerk food, it can also be used in hot chocolate and desserts for those with a sweet tooth who want to add a spicy kick.
“We named it Brownsville because it has the most potent flavor profile, and Brownsville is known as the toughest neighborhood in Brooklyn,” said Lebron. “It was an easy decision.”
Next, the couple will be working on a Jamaican jerk dry rub blend. Having become known by customers for their habit of naming their mixes after the borough’s neighborhoods, “patrons have made requests and shouted out their hoods,” said Lebron. The new blend will be named Flatbush Blend, after the neighborhood the couple lives and raises their children in.
Breukelen Rub products can currently only be purchased at Awesome Brooklyn, a cute quirky gift shop at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Fenimore Street, or directly from Lebron. To market their products, the couple also travels all around Central and East Brooklyn to sell their products at pop-up shops and trunk shows. Events and venues such as Stuyvesant Indi Bazaar and Make Manifest, that aim to connect local artisans with the community and to support small businesses, are good places to hunt for their spice blends.
“I hope to sell [the products] in mom-and-pop shops in the neighborhoods, perhaps in specialty food markets,” said Dunlap. “But I want to keep it hyperlocal.”
To create their unique spice blends, Dunlap and Lebron have been sourcing their ingredients from Kalustyan’s, a long-standing spice shop in Midtown; all their unique blends are created and bottled in small batches in their Flatbush home. “Each batch contains 100 to 125 4-oz bottles [of the spice],” said Lebron.
She hopes that soon enough she will be able to move the operation to the old Pfizer factory building which has become known for housing emerging food businesses. Lebron is also developing the website for the brand. “My husband creates the flavor and I do everything else,” she said.
And the Breukelen Rub team does more than just making spices; they also offer cooking classes, in which they teach cooking techniques, designed for the experienced home cook, semi-professional chef and culinary enthusiast. The next classes are coming up on March 30 at Awesome Brooklyn, and April 20 at Make Manifest. Waiting to see a skilled chef at work? Chop, chop, Brooklynites – you can still sign up!