North Fork native offers custom nut butters wth Simply Nicki

Nicki Gohorel inside the Orient Country Store. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

Wherever in the world Nicki Gohorel goes, she’s sure to leave space in her suitcase for new spices and other flavors she discovers.

She’ll spend at least an hour perusing local markets for new inspiration to use in recipes for her custom nut butter business, Simply Nicki, and in dishes at the Orient Country Store, where she works.

“I am a supermarket addict,” she said. “It’s just all the new things you see and the food. I need to fill my suitcase.”

Gohorel, 34, caught the travel bug early. She grew up in East Marion until she was 17, when she first left to live outside the United States, moving to Mexico so she could learn to speak Spanish. Her grandmother spoke French and German. It was important for everyone in her family to speak a different language, she said.

She spent nine years in Guanajuato, Mexico, where she finished high school and worked at restaurants and bars.

“It was nothing I expected it to be,” she said. She remembered leaving “kicking and screaming,” she said, but once she got there, “I was like wait—this place is awesome.”

While still in Mexico, Gohorel met her husband, Selçuk Kele, online. But he was thousands of miles away in Istanbul, Turkey.

The two spent about a year and a half chatting all day long, slowly becoming best friends before she visited him and, four months later, returned there permanently. They learned that East Marion and the small beach town in southern Turkey where he grew up were similar, close-knit communities.

“It’s funny because we grew up basically in the same place but on different continents,” Gohorel said. They married in August 2011.

In Istanbul, Gohorel taught English and around 2013, before one Christmas break, she decided to make homemade peanut butter and marshmallows — two items she found were not easy to come by there — to give as gifts at the school. Soon, by word of mouth, news of the gifts spread among her colleagues and people began to approach her asking if she could make them some.

Gohorel had no intention of starting a business, but the response to her creations pointed her in that direction.

Kele said he really enjoyed the moment he realized his wife was becoming more well known for her homemade goods. He recalled seeing the positive reaction on one woman’s face after she tried one of Gohorel’s nut butters and knew it was something she had to do.

“Whatever she does, she’s nervous about if people will like it,” Kele said, adding that he’ll never forget that woman’s reaction. He said he supports and encourages his wife to grow her business.

For Gohorel, there’s a joy in creating and experimenting in the kitchen.

“I like the freedom that it gives me because I love to invent new things,” she said, whether it’s adding a swirl of a new flavor to one of her nut butters. She found that in creating foods with no preservatives healthy does not have to mean boring.

Gohorel returned to the North Fork on Christmas Day 2016. She said that when she came back she realized how lucky she has been to have had the experiences she’s had.

She said she wants to use her business to help others. Her time living in other countries taught her to keep an open mind not only about food, but about people, too.

Her eventual goal is to turn Simply Nicki into a communal business, in which she wants to help people in need believe in themselves in their own pursuits.

Gohorel currently lives in Orient and sells her custom nut butters, marshmallows and hot chocolate mixes at the Orient Country Store, The Market in Greenport and at farmers markets.

She became fast friends with Orient Country Store owners Grayson Murphy and Miriam Foster, who said she’s been a helpful addition to their operation, where she does a little bit of everything.

“Like any friends going into business, we were both a little cautious and it turned out to be one of the best things,” Foster said. “She’s responsible, creative, enthusiastic, wonderful. We’re lucky to have her. She fit like a glove.”

Gohorel is staying put for the time being while her husband works to get his green card, but once that is settled and he is in the States, she knows she’ll travel as soon as she can.

“I feel very antsy if I don’t have my next trip planned, even if it’s a hypothetical trip,” she said. “It’s always, ‘Where am I going off to next?’ ”

In the meantime, she’ll continue working on her business and, whenever she has any doubts, reminding herself of what she’s learned living in new places and meeting different kinds of people.

“No matter how much I second-guess myself I can totally do whatever I set my mind to,” she said, adding that she tells herself, “If I built a life in Mexico, where I didn’t know the language [and] built a life in Turkey, where when I first got there I didn’t know the language, I can definitely do it here.”

kzegers@timesreview.com