Meet The Merchants: Ryan
It is no surprise our spice merchants are passionate about cuisine, but there's more we'd like to know about them. Learn more about the people behind the world's finest spices and discover their favorite spices, recipes, and hobbies.
Q: What’s a favorite spice you've discovered since starting at The Spice House, and why?
A: Ginger. Growing up we didn't have many strong flavors in our pantry. When I started at The Spice House, crystalized ginger was an eye opening experience about how a food could have a bold flavor without overwhelming your pallet.
Crystallized Ginger Slices
From Marco Polo to the great English manor houses, people have enjoyed crystalized ginger for centuries. Young ginger root is cooked in cane syrup and dried to perfection. Great in teacakes, granola, trail mix, and on its own.
Q: What’s your favorite Spice House blend, and why?
A: Tuscan Olive Oil Seasoning. When this blend was first introduced, we marketed it only as a bread dip, it is so much more. It has a nice balance of herbs, garlic, and sweet peppers without being too salty.
I love this blend mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a marinade for chicken or as a dressing for pasta salad with some sun-dried tomatoes. Great seasoning for couscous as well. My go-to dry rub for pork chops.
Tuscan Olive Oil Seasoning
Tuscany is famed for its beauty, its wine, its beef, and its olive oil. We created Tuscan olive oil seasoning to add zing to bread-dipping oil. We soon realized it's also great on croutons, mixed in with breadcrumbs for a casserole topping, or as a flavoring for mac and cheese.
Q: What’s your can't-live-without spice, and why?
A: Cumin. Working at The Spice House has expanded my culinary repertoire to flavors from around the world. I can't imagine cooking Mexican or Indian food without freshly ground cumin seeds.
Ground Cumin Seeds
Cumin's savory pungency has been essential in curries for thousands of years. Today, you can use our ground cumin spice as a key flavor in American chili and barbecue sauces, certain Swiss and Dutch cheeses, Mexican bean dishes, and many Central Asian dishes.
Ryan’s Vegetarian Red Lentil Chili
This is one of Ryan’s entries for The Spice House’s chili cook-off in Milwaukee. It calls for a healthy amount of freshly ground cumin, medium chili powder, and smoky chipotle chiles.
Q: If you could cook with anyone, who would it be?
Alton Brown is my kind of chef, nothing is added to a recipe without purpose, and his food isn't over stylized. He's also thoughtful about explaining why you should use a particular technique for each recipe to get the best end result.
Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Eggs and potatoes. I actually ate this for a month as a broke college student. This was back when my weekly food budget was $10 a week. I would finely dice potatoes, toss with oil and Bridgeport Potato Seasoning and roast them in the oven for a crispy crust—you must turn them often to avoid scorching. The eggs were always scrambled with salt, pepper and cheese.
Bridgeport Potato Seasoning
This cheesy Bridgeport Potato Seasoning is delectable on all preparations of potatoes; whether they are fried, baked, roasted, mashed, or boiled. It is also delicious on fried chicken, eggs any way, or mixed into the breading for fried fish.
Q: What is your favorite hobby outside of cooking?
A: Woodworking. My father got me into building things. He has been a farmer for most of his life and has always had a do-it-yourself mentality. Growing up I helped him with remodeling our basement which is my first real memory of working with tools. My favorite pieces that I have made are the gift box displays I made for the Spice House retail stores and a breadbox I made from the leftover wood scraps as a gift for my wife.
Q: You've worked with The Spice House for over 15 years now; Do you have a fondest or most-vivid memory?
A: My most vivid Spice House memory actually took place at a grocery store. I was shopping after work and I was walking down the baking aisle. I overheard a young woman talking with her mom on the phone asking her if fenugreek and fennel were the same thing. Normally I don't interrupt someone on the phone, but this was a recipe emergency. I put down my basket and took the time to educate her on the difference and directed her to The Spice House as her best resource to find the right ingredient.
Great interview, with good advice about a few blends that I have not purchased yet.
Thank you Ryan and all the team at The Spice House for bringing outstanding quality to our kitchens!
Aloha from Hawaii. 🌺