"Back in 1994 we gave up engineering and broadcasting to open a restaurant where the food was fresh and healthy, and the people were fun and creative. Pita Jungle has been a dream come true, and we like to think that we created something a little bit off the beaten path."
- Bassel, Nelly & Fouad -
Bassel Osmani, co-founder/owner of Pita Jungle, was born in Lons-Le-Saunier, France, and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. He came to Arizona in 1985, to attend school at Arizona State University (ASU). While studying BioEngineering, Osmani met Nelly Kohsok and Fouad Khodr, two other international students. The three socialized outside of classes, and Osmani was impressed by their brilliance, structure, hard-working attitudes, and vision for the future.
Fouad Khodr, co-founder/owner of Pita Jungle, was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. He came to Arizona in 1982, when he transferred from American University in Beirut to Arizona State University (ASU).
Nelly Kohsok, co-founder/owner of Pita Jungle, was born and raised in Paris, France. She moved to the US along with her parents when her father was relocated to Phoenix for work. After her bachelor’s degree in political sciences (Science-Po Paris), she came back to Arizona State University (ASU) for a Master’s in Broadcasting where she met Fouad Khodr and Bassel Osmani.
Upon graduating college, Osmani, Kohsok, and Khodr recognized a need for more healthy restaurants around ASU’s Tempe campus, and set out to leverage each of their own experiences gained in working in restaurants around town to make a difference. It was then that the vision for Pita Jungle was born.
Osmani, Khodr, and Kohsok founded Pita Jungle on the principle of serving the best quality food at a reasonable price with exceptional customer service. Instead of focusing on profit right out of the gates, they placed bringing people through the doors as a top priority. Another key component and differentiating factor for the restaurant was the vegan and vegetarian menu items. At the time when the company started, there was only one nearby market offering these kinds of options, and the team wanted to make healthy, great-tasting food readily available for those leading non-meat lifestyles.
With only a limited budget and a vision, the three opened the first Pita Jungle location in Tempe in 1994. They built the location with their own hands, employing the help of only one handyman. The brand was awarded “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” in The Arizona Republic’s “Arizona Best Yesterday and Today“ list in its first year, and it didn’t take long for the restaurant to take off. In 1997, the second location was opened in Chandler. The owners noted the openings of the first and second locations as the turning point for the brand—when they realized people truly liked the quality food being served and the experience that went along with it.
Today, Osmani, Kodr, and Kohsok remain hands-on leaders at Pita Jungle, overseeing every aspect of the restaurant, from quality control and kitchen operations to customer service and cleanliness. They remain passionate and proud of the brand the partners have built. Pita Jungle was named to Restaurant Business’s “Future 50 Fastest-Growing Small Chains in America” in 2014.
In his free time, Osmani enjoys spending time with family, enjoying delicious food and wine from around the world, snowboarding, pickle ball and traveling to ocean destinations to sail and windsurf. He resides in the Phoenix Metro area with his family.
Khodr enjoys traveling and exploring the different types of cuisine offered around the world. He resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife, Mavi, their son, and daughter.
When Kohsok became a mom, she ended up relocating back to France to be close to her parents. Kohsok’s passion is testing food all over Europe as her daughters are now leaving the nest.