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Meet The Merchants: Willie

Employee at The Spice House putting on an apron with the Spice House logo.

It is no surprise our spice merchants are passionate about cuisine, but there's more we'd like to know about them. That's why we're excited to launch a new series called Meet the Merchants. 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?

A: Red Kampot Peppercorns

Kampot peppercorns from Cambodia carry a strict regional designation, much like Champagne. This red variety starts out with a subtle, jasmine-like sweetness which opens up to a subtler heat. Right now we are offering the rarer dark-red variety, which has more developed fruity, floral, and citrus, flavors. Each Kampot red peppercorn is hand-selected at peak ripeness for superior color and flavor.



Q: What’s your favorite Spice House blend?

A: Baharat or Berbere

Just as South Asia has garam masala and North Africa has ras el hanout, the Middle East's all-purpose spice blend is baharat. Often added to frying onions to release its fullest flavor, this mix of paprika, black pepper, coriander, cumin, cloves, chiles, cinnamon, and cardamom is a superb spice rub for grilled or roasted lamb. It is also a popular seasoning for kofta, chicken kebabs, and many vegetable recipes.



Amharic for pepper, berbere forms the flavor base of classic Ethiopian dishes such as doro wot and misir wot. Like baharat and ras el hanout, it is ubiquitous in the land, but flavor composition varies from region to region, and even from household to household. WE cannot reveal every single ingredient in our berbere spice recipe, but we can tell you it’s mixed with plenty of paprika, onion, garlic, fenugreek leaves, and shallots.



Q: What’s your can't-live-without spice?

A: Old Quebec Butcher’s Rub

Quebec is beloved for maple syrup, poutine, and, among insiders, its beef. Be it smoked brisket at a Montreal deli or a slow roast cooked outside on a snowy day, you can almost taste it as you cross the border. This rub is tangy, peppery, and garlicky, with a touch of cracked coriander. One of our favorite grilling dishes is New York strip steaks marinated in red wine with a heavy coating of this blend. Soak the steaks for half an hour before grilling...delicious!


Q: Who’s your biggest culinary inspiration?

A: My Dad

Q: What’s your go-to culinary resource?

A: America's Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated cooking channel

Q: If you could cook with anyone, who would it be?

A: Aaron Franklin

Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Smoked or grilled chicken

Q: What’s your most cherished recipe?

A: Moroccan Chicken

Willie's Moroccan Grilled Chicken Thighs



Bonus Questions


Q: If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Kool & The Gang Summer Madness

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?

A: Chicago White Sox

Q: What TV show or movie could you watch on repeat forever and still not get tired of it, and why?

A: Martin and In Living Color. 90's Prime black television at its best!

Q: What’s the best thing that has happened to you so far this week?

A: A good friend got engaged

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

A: Seychelles because it is diverse and by the water

Q: If you could change something in the world, what would it be?

A: Homelessness

Q: What job would you be terrible at?

A: Zookeeper 




J. on January 19th, 2021

This is good. Please continue doing these spotlights. Always interesting to learn what the “insiders” know. Definite +1 on Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated.
Thank you.

Rick on January 18th, 2021


I’ve been using exclusively India Tellicherry peppercorns from everyday grinding to dishes like Cajun Peppered Shrimp. The Red Kampot peppercorns caught my interest. Can you provide a comparison? Thanks!

Necie Edwards on January 18th, 2021

Hello Willie,
Pleased to meet you.
I enjoy cooking and baking.

The Spice House is one of my favorite places to obtain fresh spices. The ones you feature in your recipe I plan to order.

Your recipe sounds delish. I plan to make it using chicken breasts.

Please share more of your recipes.

I am extending an offer to appear on my talkshow talking about cooking and spices.

Best regards,


Randolph Marks on January 15th, 2021

Great idea. Nice to see the interesting people who are making this all happen.

Bill on January 15th, 2021

When do we get more of Willie’s recipe ideas? Looking forward to the next Spice House Merchants post.

Terry on January 15th, 2021

Nice to “meet” you, Willie! Your Moroccan chicken recipe sounds delicious—and doable. When I’m shopping at the Spice House, I can tell that the staff is dedicated to food and knowledgeable about it. And thanks to the Spice House for introducing this new feature. I’m looking forward to meeting other merchants.

Patti on January 14th, 2021

Just enjoyed your (first?) focus on one of your Spice House merchants. I’ll have to try his recipe once i have all the ingredients! Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth Bronson on January 14th, 2021

I love this idea! I just learned about new spices, and got to know a Spice House merchant! And being from Canada, I’m so happy the Old Quebec rub made the cut – it’s my favourite too :)

Maurice Nu`tall on January 14th, 2021

That chicken dish looks phenomenal, have to try it!!

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