Zoya Biglary is changing the world of plant-based raw fish one sea algae at a time.
You may recognize Zoya Biglary from one of her viral fruit-cutting videos on TikTok and Instagram. She is a first-generation American Persian woman who tells engaging stories about her life while showing off her impressive fruit-cutting skills. “I’m Persian. I am an apple peeler,” she joked in one of her earlier videos.
Biglary also frequently makes appearances in her girlfriend Alix Traeger’s videos. Traeger is a former Buzzfeed Tasty chef who still continues to share food and laughs with the world online. But when Biglary is not in a kitchen peeling fruit or tasting recipes, she produces her own line of plant-based fish.
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It’s Fysh, Not Fish
Cleverly named Fysh, the company was founded by Biglary and her longtime friend, Chef Paul Barbosa Jr. The inspiration for Fysh first came to the creator two years ago when she began to have a bad reaction to consuming raw fish.
“While researching for answers, I discovered how problematic fish in America was – from polluted environments to parasites to mislabeled fish types” she told Gayety. “This was also around the time that social media and documentaries brought more attention to the destructive practices of the commercial fishing industry. It was a perfect storm to create an alternative in the raw fish space.”
Of course, she tried other fish alternatives before she took on the heavy task of making her own, but nothing in the market fulfilled her sushi-loving needs. So she set out to make her own. Many market’s plant-based proteins often contain soy, gluten, nuts, and artificial colors and flavors – but not Fysh. Thanks to Biglary and Barbosa’s resilience, they created a new chef-made protein that is delicious and affordable.
“As food people, we wanted our product to taste good, first and foremost. We started with bioavailable plant-based pea protein and root vegetables and then harnessed the power of sea algae and fermentation to build umami. Since we refused to use food coloring, we experimented with real vegetable powders and spices to get the color right. This process took over a year to complete.”
Overcoming Every Obstacle
Though the 32-year-old has already made major waves in the faux meat department, Biglary had many obstacles to overcome. When asked if she always wanted to be an entrepreneur, she joked, “Yes, I’ve always wanted my life to be a rollercoaster, ha!” She went on to say that both her parents were entrepreneurs and she always wanted to follow their footsteps and be her own boss. But even with a solid business idea like Fysh, the road to success was a bumpy one.
One of those challenges has been growing the company and finding funding. “Non-white female founders receive less than 1% of all venture capital funding,” she continued. However, Biglary said growing up a first-generation Iranian-American has made her chameleon-like. “I’ve learned to adapt to my surroundings and go with the flow.”
She also credits her queerness for helping make her so resilient. “I’m not scared to try things or walk right up and speak to a potential new account. I’m also not scared to fail. None of those things are scary to me. I’ve always said, I came out to middle eastern parents in my 20’s and lived to tell the tale. Not much else can intimidate me at this point.”
It’s More than Just Fysh
While Biglary’s Fysh Food aims to counter the fish industry and fight against overfishing, it also aims to promote inclusion.
“Inclusion is everything and food is the most universal, personal connector. Consumers deserve to feel like there’s something for them, especially when it comes to celebratory dinners and events.”
She hopes by offering consumers a choice each time they crave seafood, she can lesson the damage being done to the marine life and our oceans.
“When it comes to common uses for raw fish ie: sushi, poke, ceviche etc- there are so many secondary ingredients in each dish that sometimes an alternative protein is hardly noticeable.”
Fysh can be found at Kombu Sushi in the Silver Lake and Downtown Los Angeles.
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