10 to Watch Winner 2021 – MAiiZ Nixtamal

“People use tortillas as a vehicle to shovel in food. But tortillas have a soul,a character. They are the foundation of a meal. You don’t need more.”— Israel Álvarez Molina,founder of MAiiZ Nixtamal.

Israel Álvarez Molina, founder of MAiiZ Nixtamal
Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

Sectors: Food, Retail

Year Launched: 2020

Founders: Israel Álvarez Molina

Unique Selling Proposition: Elevating a daily staple — the tortilla — into a taste bud triumph.

Process: Organic corn kernels mixed with calcium chloride or lime are boiled and soaked overnight. The kernels are later rinsed, hulled, shaped into masa dough and fried into tortillas.

Website: www.maiiz.ca

Award sponsor: City of Victoria

MAiiZ Nixtamal — whose name refers to corn in Spanish and the process used to make tortillas — will celebrate one year of retail business in July and owner Israel Álvarez Molina hasn’t had a day off, returning to his shop kitchen each day to finish a process that began 16 hours earlier when 50 kilograms of corn we reset to boil, with 2,100 tortillas the end product.

Since arriving in Canada from Mexico City in 2008, Molina has been a chef in Edmonton and Ucluelet. In 2019 he came to Victoria with plans to elevate a daily staple into a taste bud triumph.

“People say, ‘I didn’t know tortillas taste that good,’” he says, likening his Chinatown shop to a neighbourhood French bakery because MAiiZ tortillas are “the bread of Mexico.”

Available in four different colours and containing minerals and B vitamins, they hold their shape better than mass-produced versions. Another kitchen coup is that Molina uses certified organic corn from an Armstrong, B.C. farm.

Eaten for centuries, it’s unknown how the originators of the Nixtamal process discovered that when ashes or burned shells were added to the cooked corn, a food that kept disease at bay would result. Molina says it took him about four weeks to develop his specific recipe.

Today, MAiiZ tortillas are savoured at 18 of Victoria’s top restaurants and sold in 23 grocery stores. And with sales growth of 250 per cent, Molina plans to expand with the help of one or two big corn cookers and machinery that would speed up the process. “That would be a game-changer,” he says. “I could triple capacity.”