Meet the 29-year-old Bukhari Jew who left Wall Street to open a pickle shop

New York Jewish Week via JTA – The first man in his family to be born in America, Edward Ilyasov spent his childhood in Hillcrest, Queens, dreaming of watching cooking shows and traveling the world.

Even as a young boy, 29-year-old, Ilyasov felt bound to do something outside the life path set by his parents and his community. He knew he didn’t want to grow up to be a pharmacist, dentist, barber or jeweler – a profession popular among members of the Queens Bukharian Jewish community, a tight-knit enclave of some 70,000 Russian-speaking Jews originally from Central Asia.

Nevertheless, as a child of divorced immigrants, Ilyasov’s primary career goal was to earn money. Therefore, after completing his bachelor’s degree at Queen’s College and obtaining his master’s degree in financial engineering at Columbia University, Ilyasov headed to Wall Street to work as a financial analyst for Deutsche Bank and Santander Bank.

But after five years, Ilyasov felt incomplete, despite the stable salary and parental approval. So he decided to do something more satisfying than crunching numbers: Pickle

The idea first came to the fore three years ago, when Ilyasov’s aunt served him a crunchy homemade marinade with astonishing depth of flavor. Ilyasov wanted the recipe, but his aunt was only able to give vague instructions—”a little bit of it, a little bit,” she recalled. “Actually, no numbers.”

Ilyasov made it his mission to recreate the taste. Within a week, he posted his version on Instagram, where it went viral in the Bukhari community. He said that his friends who heard the crunch of the pickle in the video wanted to try it in person. Ilyasov made small jars for them. As word spread, he began selling his jars for $5—eventually amassing a 600-order waiting list.

And so, Uncle Edik’s Pickles was born. Although pickling began as a hobby—Ilyasov tinkered with recipes outside of work hours, especially during the first months of remote work when the pandemic began—it became a career. Ilyasov quit his financial job and became a full-time “pickle businessman” in November 2020, selling jars of pickles via Instagram and word of mouth.

Last October, Ilyasov walked into a storefront at the 176-37 Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows, where he grew up. After being on a waiting list for a month, Uncle Edik’s Pickles officially opened to walk-in customers in November. He now employs five people in the store, and hopes to do so once they reach a level of production that doesn’t sell out every week.

“It’s not a typical pickle—people are accustomed to pickles or half-sour pickles,” Ilyasov told New York Jewish Week. “These pickles are based on vinegar. They are aged for about a week in the cold aging process. ,

Ilyasov’s pickles may differ from traditional Ashkenazi pickles Search the Lower East Side, which are put in a solution of salt water for one to two months.

Ranging from $8-10 per jar, Uncle Edik’s offers regular, habanero and pickled pickles with pickled tomatoes. So far, Edik’s has sold out every week since opening. (courtesy/via jta)

“Pickles stay really crunchy,” said Ilyasov of his Bukhari method. “And, at the same time, they’re still full of flavor because of the delicate blend of spices.”

Why pickle? As Ilyasov explained, they are a traditional accompaniment Many Bukhari dishes, such as plov — A one-pot meat and rice dish — or kebabs. They are also a main ingredient of zacusca, a traditional festive course which is spicy hors d’oeuvres served with vodka.

Ilyasov said of his creations, “It presents itself as an extremely high-end marinade, featuring regular, spicy, and habanero flavors. Retailing at $8 or $10, depending on flavor, Uncle Edik’s Pickles” A jar of can should be more than a goofy add-on to a sandwich. Instead, these are intended for special meals and savory dishes for the Shabbat table or to be given as a gift along with a bottle of vodka.

As for the name, Ilyasov explained that Edik is the diminutive of Edward, and that “uncle” in Russian is an honorific similar to “mister” and is usually reserved for older, respected members of the community. “When people say names in Russian, there is a subconscious respect associated with it,” he said. “This business is treated as something prestigious and respectable.” (Moreover, Ilyasov said: his nephew was born exactly at the same time as he finalized his recipes.)

Although Ilyasov considers Uncle Edik’s pickles the fruit of a lifelong dream, he says he is most proud that he has proved to himself what someone from the Bukharian community and a first-generation American can do. Find a career that is fulfilling both And Success,

Manasseh Khaimov, a professor of Bukharian Jewish history at Queen’s College, said that Ilyasov actually gained fame through his pickle Instagram account, @Uncle_Adix_Pickles, where Ilyasov regularly posts business updates, funny videos and promotional materials. “It’s a real entrepreneurial way to sell a product,” Khaimov told The New York Jewish Week. “The community really celebrated and supported him.”

Ilyasov considers himself a minor figure in the Bukhari community. “I’m probably in the top two or three most famous Bukharis of my generation,” he said.

Using his influence, Ilyasov has a passion for mentoring younger members of his community career. While he worked in finance, he hosted a panel called “Unconventional Bukhari Careers,” where Khaimov and other members of the community mentored high school and college students.

“They don’t really know what’s out there,” Ilyasov said of the teenagers in his community. “They could go into media, social science, graphic design, law. Even physicians are very rare. People are so focused on starting a family in our community that they don’t really strive for risky careers that they may not be able to enter. ,

“So for me, being able to show that it’s possible to make a good and a fun life — to make something like pickles, which means, is everything,” he said.

Fulfillment, maybe. But profitable?

“I am clearly not earning as much as I used to. All I invested was my own savings,” he said. “So it will take me a while to catch up. But completing? Yes. It’s been a blessing. ,

Ilyasov – whose pickles have been certified kosher by OK – is well aware that he is honoring a Jewish tradition by opening a pickle business in the city. He said some of his favorite conversations have been with old customers who have come to reminisce about a hundred different types of customers. Pickles you can find on the Lower East Side.

“Having a place in Queens in the middle of a very Jewish neighborhood is very important to bring back the ability to take a jar before Shabbat,” he said.

Once he reaches his pickle ability, what will he do next? “I don’t know,” said Ilyasov. “Maybe politics ahead.”