As the owners of The Spice House, my husband Tom and I often wrestle with time management issues, there simply is not enough time in the day for all of the hats we must wear. We have learned that, while painful, you can delegate chores. They might not be done to the standard to which we aspire, but they can come close enough. I personally answer the company email for hours every day, and we have discussed whether this is something that could be given to one of our staff members. Many of these emails are very simple, but others are quite complex. Often times, simply out of politeness, unless my box has over 200 emails to get through, I will seek out an answer for someone who is looking to find a product we do not carry, or a recipe. I sometimes wonder if it is possible that so many people out there have no idea how to google the information they need. Or perhaps I have unwittingly turned myself into a Ready Reference resource. Growing up, before the days of computers, we used libraries and reference books. The families that could afford encyclopedias invested serious money in these books which their children could use as a valuable resource for schoolwork. Tom even sold encyclopedias on the road awhile in his youth, if you want a good laugh ask him about those ?good old days?! If you were not lucky enough to have some serious reference books at home, the library had a Ready Reference number you called for help. The person who answered was not hooked into any computer, she would leave the desk, go get a book, and look up the answer for you. So, on the most generic level, I may now be this person. HOWEVER, on the most valuable level, I can?t tell you how many emails I read that are written by remarkable people.
We're always interested in the next generation of chefs at The Spice House, and not just because they'll hopefully be our customers. We're proud to sponsor a variety of events and fundraisers for local culinary schools. Friday, we had the opportunity to attend an event to which we'd contributed: the annual culinary symposium at Robert Morris College.
The theme for this year's event was Culinary Chicago: Past Present and Future, and it included lectures on topics from beer to candy to politics. Speakers included an impressive array of Chicago culinary and industry professionals – keynote speaker Carrie Nahabedian of Naha, Hopleaf owner Mike Roper, Two Brothers Brewery founder Jim Ebel, author Marilyn Pocius, Chef Magazine editor Lacey Griebeler, and many others.
It occurs to me that anticipation might be one of the most wonderful things in life. Anticipation is a positive energy of its own volition. Currently we are anticipating Thanksgiving dinner, as the host, my brother, is a fantastic cook! He makes three or four different turkeys, and then packs everyone a leftover care package. We also have business anticipations for the holidays. We are in a nice position, because of the uniqueness of our business, that PR really just floats in to us, usually via email these days. Each holiday season, we get some press for our spice themed gift boxes . We never know where these mentions will come from, and it is always with great anticipation that we look forward to them, whatever the venue. This year we are excited to have several connections working for us, including Saveur Magazine and a new television show about comfort food hosted by Art Smith.
We try very hard to become active in the communities that are home to each of our shops. cheap viagra overnight88834012875697dc5970c ” style=”margin: 1px;” title=”11-21-08 years photos 457″ src=”/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/postimages/6a00e552094ec88834012875697dc5970c-320pi.jpg” alt=”11-21-08 years photos 457″ />We look to make connections with people who are really into food, families, cooking. One easy way to do this is for us to be involved with Slow Food . Members of this organization are pretty serious about food and its sources, and naturally cooking and eating. I truly believe this is a worthwhile organization, it is dedicated to making sure the food we eat is good, clean and fair. I served on the board of directors for the Chicago chapter of Slow Food for almost 8 years, and consequently, was very excited to hear a new chapter was being formed in the same area as our newest Geneva Spice shop, the Western suburbs. They called the chapter City’s Edge. This photo was taken at one of their first convivial dinners, a pot luck held at a local gem of a farm, Heritage Prairie Market, where we dined on the most wonderful dishes. The star of the meal were a few of these Heritage turkeys that were brought by the Cavenys of Caveny Farms (visit this website if you want to order an outstanding Heritage turkey to grace your Thanksgiving day meal.) It is now time for the second annual pot luck dinner.
If you are any sort of a foodie who lives in the Chicago area, you probably already know about LTHforum.
Their website describes their forum as “the Chicago based culinary chat site”, although often their discussions roam far off the radar from just the Chicago area. They are known to get in their cars and drive 100 miles to follow up on a hot tip for a good sausage, burger, bbq, fried chicken, ice cream, a farmer’s market, a special Asian market, in fact, if you name it delicious, they will come. These people really know their food. You won’t find a better forum out there filled with intelligent discussions about food, inspired recipes, photos ranging from wonderful home cooked meals to fine dining in top notch restaurants.This is no flippant toss-out-any comment-forum, so think your posts through thoroughly before you make them, or you may be taken to task! On a recent long road trip, we were having a conversation about molecular gastronomy, and we greatly enjoyed going online via the phone and searching the LTHForum site for this subject. What turned up was some very entertaining verbal volleys in this post about molecular gastronomy started by a high end chef. About two months ago, we were greatly honored to be nominated….
We are fortunate to have some very talented chefs as customers. Over the years these have turned into some really nice relationships. We are in awe of the talent these chefs possess. When we dine out, we choose restaurants whose chefs are our customers, and luckily, we have plenty to choose from. Currently, our filtering parameter has become whether the chef focuses on local ingredients and supporting both our local farmers and our local food community. There are many chefs on this list, and I would like to introduce you to the chefs that REALLY get it, over a series of posts. (Obviously if you are an active part of our food community, you don?t need to read this, you can?t help but already be aware of it.) The first chef on our list is Bruce Sherman of North Pond Bruce is currently nominated for the James Beard award ?Best Chef: Great Lakes?.
The folks in this photo are waiting in line at the Milwaukee Public Market to have authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg autograph a copy of The Flavor Bible. This was about a year ago when the book was first out. We were lucky enough to have this dedicated couple do book signings for us in not just one, but THREE different Spice House locations!
Since we are a spice store, not a book store, we are extremely selective about which books we carry. We choose only four titles a year, as the books will use up valuable shelf space that is very necessary to showcase our 400 plus spice products in our tiny shops. We usually swap out books from year to year, yet The Flavor Bible remains on the first string roster. Simply put, this is an AMAZING book. It is a classic reference guide that is a must for any kitchen, from the uninitiated cook to the most seasoned veteran. When I need a thank-you or hostess gifts for chef friends who already possess all things culinary, this is what I bring. All the chefs I have given it to loved it, with the exception of Carrie Nahabedian. I tried to give the book to her before I read it; it ends up that she is one of the experts quoted in the book and naturally she had her own supply of the book! EVERYONE loves this book. Why does The Flavor Bible earn such high praise and accolades, enough to keep it a hot seller even after a year on the market?
We are so excited that the big night is almost here. This event sold out about a month in advance, a sure testimonial to what a great evening it is. I look back over the years and remember when we were lucky to have a few hundred people show up. One year I was the Chair of the event when it was sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier, and we were lucky to have around 35 chefs. We were shocked when we heard a rumor that market founder, Abby Mandel, was calling the chefs in advance and telling them what they were serving was not acceptable. We just could not believe that if a chef wanted to serve something as expensive as soft shell crabs, which we thought quite generous, this choice would be criticized. Who would look a gift horse in the mouth? Abby, if they were serving the wrong menu! There were a few irate chefs, let me tell you. In retrospect, we all now see how far ahead of her time Abby was. Abby ALWAYS got it. All we wanted to do was throw a nice party, have some happy participants and chefs, and raise some money. It needed to go so much further than that. Now, we have evolved to what this food community is really all about. If we want a good farmer’s market, with sustainable or organic product, we all have to support it. The farmers are doing their best for us, but they need everyone to be on board, not just home cooks but restaurant chefs, caterers, even politicians are needed to smooth the path. This group of very talented chefs understands how important their role in helping to educate the public has become, this is their chance to show off their skills and they are happy to share their expertise with you. One of the coolest things about this event, is the opportunity to meet the actual chef in person. All the restaurants send their A team.
Here, one of my very favorite photos from an early bbq, NOT on Abby’s list! Below, some more real local dishes being served tomorrow and some snippets of menu items being served. We will really miss Abby at the BBQ, she was with us just last year. Her work is certainly being carried on.
I am not sure if it is the case for all small business owners, but for us there just are not enough hours in the day to get our work done. It might be that we have more work than most in that we source,
purchase, warehouse, grind, blend, mix and package our of our 400
products in house primarily by hand. Many days we struggle against the clock to get our work done, and we don’t sit down to dinner at home too many nights because we don’t actually even GET home until 8 or 9. However, in spite of this, every once in awhile you have just the best day where you just can’t believe how lucky we are to have such a great way to make our living. Saturday, in the Old Town Chicago shop was just such a day. As owners, with many, many behinds the scenes things we must do, we don’t work the floor as often as we would like. Note to self – work the floor on Saturdays, it is the most fulfilling way to remember how much you love this business! Pictured here, a very enthusiastic chef Jeff Mauro buying all sorts of spices for his new restaurant Jam, which will be at 937 North Damen. While we can not tell you about the food, as it is just about to open, Jeff is using top notch spices so we certainly foresee a commitment to quality! Can’t wait to check it out. Next, we are thrilled to wait on several International customers.
As small business owners, there are things that frustrate us on a regular basis. Mostly wearing too many hats and not having enough time to fulfill all of our jobs in a timely manner. The rewards, however, at the end of the day, far outweigh the negatives. If you are very lucky, you get a crew that clicks and becomes its own family. This photo was taken at a baby shower for one of our Old Town crew, Madeline. The fact that even the male co-workers are in attendance genuinely show their affection for our new Mom, her baby Madison was born yesterday. (Although free drinks probably helped insure their presence!) When you have a crew that enjoys and looks out for one another, they are truly a pleasure to be around. Laughter in the workplace among employees that like each other is music to our ears. Again, like Mom and Dad, when laughter turns to silliness, we have to step in and gets the kids back to focus on work. Don’t tell our staff, but this is the scolding that makes us feel like we really are a family!