Title: Owner, Juliet Mae, maker of The Occasional Gourmet a line of fine spices and herbs sold in recipe-friendly portions in stay-fresh packets
Hometown: New York, now San Francisco
1. How do New Yorkers compare to San Franciscans?
New Yorkers are specialists. But people here are interested in more things, and open to new ideas, more well-rounded. People out here are creative. I’m not sure I could have started this business in New York.
2. How did you come up with the idea for The Occasional Gourmet?
I was sitting in the kitchen one day looking at tea bags and I thought if people could buy individually foil wrapped tea bags, why not spices?
For coming up with blends, I’ll go out to eat and think about how someone prepared food or read cookbooks, figure out how another culture combines flavors. I like creating blends because they’re like culinary play dough. There are no limits to what you can do with them.
3. What are some great recipe tips from your customers?
One customer shared how she used a tagine blend with white beans, sausage and tomato sauce to create a kind of Mediterranean cassoulet. Another idea is to use herbs de Provence with a little white wine, chicken broth and some shallot or garlic to poach fish in the oven.
4. What trends do you predict in spices and flavorings?
A broadening appetite for spices, because of health reasons, cocooning, odd economic times, people may actually have to learn how to cook again.
Some people are looking to entertain and need solutions, other people use spices because they want to break out of the same old thing–but they all want them to be easy to use. Most people don’t want to spend all day preparing dinner. The real trend is people are cooking less at home so when they do, they want to make it special.
Spice usage has been increasing partly because Indian and Mexican cuisines are becoming more and more established. I see more fusion. People are more likely to combine flavors. North African spices will become more popular.
5. What are your favorite spices these days?
I like them all, but some of my favorites are a few Middle Eastern peppers, Marash, Aleppo, and piment d Espelette from the Espelette region in Basque country. The Marash is a finishing pepper. I also discovered using smoked paprika instead of chipotle.