Zip Zester began with a simple product that solved a culinary nightmare… Zesting!
With a high school diploma and three months baking experience, Ben Willis began his entrepreneurial career.
Despite its humble beginnings, Willis’s Pacific Northwest company, Zip Zester, has received international recognition for a product that removes the outermost layer of a citrus fruit’s peel, called zest. Zesting is a hot trend in baking and brewing, sauce preparation and bar tending because zest provides a more concentratedcitrus flavor than any other part of the fruit.
Willis was struck by inspiration in March 2010 while using a hand-held zesting tool, at Earls in Bellevue.
“Zest is awesome, but hand zesting has always been laborious and tedious,” Willis said. “I knew there had to be a better way.”
Willis pieced together a rough ‘Zip Zester’ prototype in a few days. He showed the model to Earls Bellevue Executive Chef Jonathan Fraser and “his jaw dropped,” at the elegant design, Willis said. “He said, ‘I’ve been zesting for 13 years – why didn’t I think of this?’”
By fall 2010 Willis had founded Zip Zester.
Willis decided to produce and manufacture the Zip Zester in the Seattle area because it kept costs low and quality high, Willis said. “It’s the obvious choice right now,” Willis said. “(By going with local companies) I have greater flexibility for design changes and get to support local enterprise, which is important to me.”
Zip Zester is garnering national and international attention for its Zip Zester. The device competed against thousands of entrees for the 2012 Kitchen Innovations Award at the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2011 conference. It won, and was selected by an NRA panel of industry leaders as a groundbreaking foodservice invention.
The Zip Zester has been featured on international television and supported by culinary mogul Tom Douglas who reviewed the product in the design stages and stated, “this (device) will increase the use of zest in the culinary industry.”
Hilton Worldwide, P.F. Chang’s, and Ritz-Carlton are among the companies with locations already using the invention, as are Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, and Marriott locations.
In the fall of 2012, Willis added two garnishing blades to the product. “The new blades meet the bar industry’s need for a consistent cocktail twist,” says Willis. It’s a change that adds a new dimension to Willis’s award winning product.