As a chef and food blogger, respectively, Pete Taylor and Heather Scholten know there’s no better way to experiment with flavor than with spice. Hence SPICEOLOGIST (2721 N. Van Marter Rd., Spokane Valley; spiceologist.com), the company they founded in 2013.
Spiceologist offers chiles and baking spices, ground and powdered spices, dried herbs and whole spices, all of which are all-natural and free of “funky stuff.” Spiceologist products are sold in close to 1,200 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The company’s pièce de résistance is the Spiceologist Block, a European Beech block handcrafted in Hayden, Idaho, that holds spice-filled, cork-topped test tubes, each of which are filled and stamped by hand.
“We wanted something that kept all your spices at hand,” Taylor says. “But it also looked sexy on your countertop.”
You can choose 22 of your own spices for $179, or choose one of Spiceologist’s themed blocks — Chef-Inspired, Baking, Mediterranean, and Salt and Pepper — for $159.95 each. Buyers also have the option of adding a logo or text engraving.
A Kickstarter campaign for the project brought in $51,000 worth of orders, and kitchenware heavyweight Williams-Sonoma soon came calling. They placed an order for Spiceologist Blocks and the four- and eight-pack rub gift sets, and soon will be selling them online and in all North American locations.
Locally, Spiceologist is preparing for a move into a bigger facility and hopes to open a retail location in early fall 2015. The company also is excited for its newest venture: selling spices to local restaurants like Santé and Mizuna.
“We’re constantly trying to innovate and grow the company,” Taylor says.
After his catering company took a hit during the recession, Victor Azar, chef and owner of VICTOR FOODS (victorfoods.com), knew he had to do something to avoid laying off his employees.
He decided to listen to what friends and customers had said for years: Package your own hummus.
Azar, who also operates Café MAC at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, started with two flavors, jalapeño and toasted sesame. Soon enough, Azar’s hummus became a local favorite, which both excited and overwhelmed him.
“After a couple of years, it got to be too much,” he says. “My kitchen in Airway Heights, even though it’s a huge kitchen, it was not enough, so Spokane Produce came to the rescue.”
Azar’s hummus is now sold in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and Victor Foods has grown to include six other flavors of hummus, including a hummus/mousse dessert dip called Chocolate H’Mousse, all of which are vegan and free of gluten, cholesterol, soy and dairy.
The health-conscious aspect of Victor Foods, which will soon include a healthy falafel, is a no-brainer for Azar, as he says an intense nutritional regimen helped cure his cancer almost a decade ago.
The care Azar puts into each product has attracted a loyal following.
As he says, “Once people start buying this product, they never go back.”
Daphne Taylor isn’t one to back down from a challenge.
After a friend asked her to create food that would fit her and her son’s dietary restrictions, Taylor, the daughter of a chef and granddaughter of a chef/butcher, got to work on recipes that were free of gluten, corn, soy, potato, dairy, casein (the protein in milk), peanuts and tree nuts.