Making Spice Blends

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chefdrew1978, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. chefdrew1978

    chefdrew1978

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    Hey Chefs,

    I have been toying with the idea of starting a small spice blend production. I have started to build some of my menu items around the blends and they seem to be going over well. I know things like this is not an easy thing to produce and become a success. Any thoughts about this? I would be grateful for any advice.

    Thanks Chef's

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  2. chefhow

    chefhow

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    There is a lot of info that is missing.

    1. Are you looking at working as a repacker of spices and selling retail and food service?

    2. Are you looking to produce spics, blends of spices or seasonings?

    3. Do you have the equipment to blend or will you be hiring a copacker to do it for you and just sell?

    4. Have you considered which market you are going to target? All, Natural, Organic...

    5. Do you understand how flavors, resins and spices work together?

    Let us know and we can go from there.
     
  3. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I suggest you consult a chemist. Like do you know what silicone dioxide does in mixed spices? ans why it is used?
     
  4. chefdrew1978

    chefdrew1978

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    Well, I have been mixing some and giving them to people as gifts. The folks that I have given them to have asked how they can get a refill.

    I would ultimately like to see it on shelves in the grocery store but starting off, I would imagine that the target group would be individuals and free standing restaurants/bar&grille. I am fortunate enough to be associated with a handful of intelligent business folks, not saying they would certainly be interested, but the chance of a partnership or start-up assistance could be an option. I don't know much about chemicals except you will need things to preserve and anti-clumping.

    Thanks for responding!


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    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  5. chefhow

    chefhow

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    As the US/Mex/Canada corp chef and a scientist for one of the largest spice and seasoning companies in the world I will tell you that getting on the store shelves is a project that is YEARS in the making, start small and work your regional and local markets.  Rent a stall in one of the Atl Farmers Markets and sell them there first to see what the market reaction is, friends arent customers.  You will need to make nutrtional panels, label statements that meet USDA and/or FDA guidelines and have all of your documentation ready before you can sell them to the public.

    Start off by perfecting 2-3 blends, once you have decided on them contact a small spice/blending company that co-packs seasoning blends and go from there.  Just remember that what you make in your kitchen isn't guaranteed to work in a manufacturing facility.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  6. chefdrew1978

    chefdrew1978

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    Hey thanks for the advice.  

    1)  Is there ever an issue where the co-packer "steals" the recipe?

    2)  Do you have a suggestion for the best way to buy wholesale spices & Herbs?  Something other than the normal wholesale food distributors like Sysco, US and Cheney?

    3)  When you say, "Just remember that what you make in your kitchen isn't guaranteed to work in a manufacturing facility",  what issues might come up?

    4)  How did you land a job like this?  Do the chef's that develope the blends need a food science degree?

    Thanks again for the advice that you have lent, I really appreciate it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2012
  7. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Any reputable co-packer will have mutual confidentiality agreements along with appropriate non-compete agreements. Have you legal counsel vet before signing!
     
  8. chefhow

    chefhow

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    There are agreements that can be put in place between you and a co-packer so you own your formulas and they just produce them for you.  NDA's(non disclosure agreements) are very common in the industry and widely used, jsut be sure that the language protects you and your formulas from the co-packer rather than the other way around. 

    There are several companies that sell smaller volumes of spices, it just depends on what and how much you need.  Try to contact Spices Inc, and Frontier Coop, Spices Inc will probably be your best bet since the minimums are small but you pay more for smaller quantity and they are a retailer first and a wholesaler second.

    What I am referring to is in your kitchen when you are making a 2-3lb batch for friends and making it by hand to be sure that the herbs stay whole and pretty isnt going to happen when you are having a company make 50-100lbs at minimum for you.  They are beating the product in ribbon blenders that toss and churn the mix to be sure it is uniformly blended.  This leads to crushed product, possible color variances, and minor vairability from batch to batch.  Specs written by co-packers have ranges for color, flavor, salt....This should be expected and you have to be prepared for it.

    I was a customer of the companies working for somebody else.  It was a random conversation while I was here working on a project with the former VP of Technical and R&D that lead to me coming on board 6 months later.  I personally have no FORMAL science background but I understand the principals of the science behind sauces, dry mixes, baking, and meats from years of doing this, my formal background is in Culinary and I have a degree's in both Culinary and Baking/Pastry.  I owned 2 restaurants and a bar in my past life and moved over to the R&D side when my marriage with my ex wife was falling apart, sold my business and took a HUGE paycut as a lab/kitchen manager for a QSR company that was in 2003/04.  This year I have been studing for my CRC exam and work with a great group of people, 1 is a  Food Scientist and 1 is a Biologist a Meat Scientist, a Certified Flavorist and a Beverage Specialist.  We are a VERY diverse group and we all bring different skills to the lab that make us VERY successful in what we do as a company.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2012
  9. everydaygourmet

    everydaygourmet

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    Hey Chef Drew,

    am actively marketing and selling several products personally and in conjunction with others. We started small (coffee grinder) with our formulas, we'd make 2 batches, grind one leave the other whole and test, if it was what we wanted we weighed the ingredients to get the reproducible formula, broke that down in to %_ages for the label and did not use any chemicals (trace actually in some of the dried raw products we used had some in, dried onion, garlic etc.) covered it with "less than 1% of ........ In Florida art least we were covered under the cottage law that allows you to produce certain things at home for sale to the general public. Don't know what your facility is like, if you own a restaurant/ commercial kitchen etc., but if you need one remember you local VFW, Eagles, Masonic Lodge are commercial kitchens as they serve the public, on occasion and are usually happy to help for very little if any compensation. Helped  a friend on her project, and bartered kitchen expertise for an event, worked out well.

    Marketed to specialty shops, did the Sat/Sun "farmers co-op / market thing, private labeled to restaurants as their spice blend, entered cooking contests for our rib rub and "Must Slath" mustard slather, did several tastings so that you could taste what you were buying, on the target dish.

    Best of luck, Cheers!

    EDG
     
  10. chefdrew1978

    chefdrew1978

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    Thanks for the feedback. Any issues that you run into using brown sugar? I have kept mine in large containers at work for a couple of months at a time without any problems. I work in a large banquet kitchen so the space is not an issue.

    Do you both grind fresh or do you use pre-ground spices for your mixes?

    Also, I would imagine that it is not allowed to add other mixes into yours, like a chicken rub for example...

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  11. everydaygourmet

    everydaygourmet

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    CD,

    never had any problems with light or dark brown sugar, use turbo as my everyday sugar (semi processed sugar) may have seen it as "sugar in the raw" or derivations thereof. Started using that in my blends as it has a much lower moisture content and eliminated "clumping issues".

    IF, you are making a blend that you want shelf life from, then I would go with dry herbs, and, grind them to the desired consistency yourself. I use fresh only in compound butters, which I freeze immediately for use later. Obviously fresh herbs have a higher moisture content, you buy them fresh for immediate use, so mixing them to package seems (IMHO & experience) to be a waste, as the main reason you bought them for won't be realized AND your flavor profile/formula won't be the same, see any fresh to dry herb conversion chart. Also there may be health issues, obviously fresh garlic and oil is an issue, (moisture content+enclosed space+heat+time=a science experiment)

     The only "fresh herb pac" I've every seen had fresh herbs blanched and frozen, the price point made them more expensive than going to almost ANY market and buying fresh so......................, I'd stay with the dry.

    I dry and smoke a good part of most of my own ingredients for Q & QC also it makes them hard or impossible to replicate, unique and yours!

    Hmmm, re the last part, is said chicken rub crucial to your formula?, if so, why don't you make CD1978 chicken rub, sell it separately and, use it as an ingredient in your spice blend?

    BTW, what specific spice blend are you planning to make?

    I have seen Worcestershire, ketchup, chicken/beef/veg bullion etc. (dried and liquid) as an ingredient in some rubs and sauces, however, IMHO, a pre packaged commercially available rub, is in itself a spice blend, so I'd have to say no, I, wouldn't use it.

    How would you label it?, "Ingredients, 95% Slappy-the-bait-shop-guys secret chicken rub, and 5% my stuff", just askin.

    If you have specific ?'s feel free to send me a PM

    Cheers!

    EDG 
     
  12. chefdrew1978

    chefdrew1978

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    Hey Bud,

    Thanks for the reply.   "Ingredients, 95% Slappy-the-bait-shop-guys secret chicken rub, and 5% my stuff",...LOL,

    No, one of my mixes is cut with a particular rub, it is probably about 20% of the complete mix, I figured that I would need to find my own similar replica to complete my own mix.  I do not imagine that it would be that hard to do.

    I tried looking into the prices for "Spices Inc." but I found that I get better prices from Sysco on my case cost..

    I forget what the name of the organization is(I will find out later) but there is one for your local community, they meet with you and give free advice for trying to start up a local business.  I will probably contact them to see what advice they might have on hand for some of the procedures and regulations for doing something like this...
     
  13. chefdave11

    chefdave11 Banned

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    What's a pre-ground spice?

    Oh, you mean like that flavorless spicy sand otherwise known as ground black pepper?

    If you use anything pre-ground you're not only starting off with an inferior product, but you're also paying a higher price.

    I think I've just lost all respect for you, as a chef.

    Waring makes a $100 spice grinder.  Comes with 3 bowls that can go through the dishwasher.  Check it out.

    For the record, if it's not Coleman's Dry Mustard (or maybe another exception or two), it should be WHOLE.
     
  14. chefhow

    chefhow

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    I would say that wouldnt be very smart on the OP's part.  To make enough volume to get into stores, even local only, you need to make 100's of pounds of blends.  Do you really think somebody is going to stand there and grind up each herb and spice 6oz at a time?  On a small scale, in a small restaurant its one thing, for production purposes what you are suggesting isnt rational or logical.  Hell, when I owned my bigger restaurant and I was doing 300 covers a week night and 550+ on a weekend I would have to hire a prep cook to do NOTHING but grind herbs and spices according to you, and that just wasnt EVER going to happen.  

    I guess you just lost respect for me as a chef as well.... 
     
  15. chefdave11

    chefdave11 Banned

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    Are we both talking about the same thing?  Maybe what I said was taken to an extreme, maybe that's how I came off.  I'm passionately against preground black pepper.  Cafeteria, Diner, Fast Food, Fine Dining, Banquets.  Fresh black pepper will make ALL the food better.

    Dried spices is what I'm referring to.  Most people have no clue that basic black pepper has a lot of flavor, aside from the "spicy" aspect to it.  But buy it preground and there's no trace of essential oils, no character, no flavor.

    I forgot about paprika - that also works well preground  And there are others I'm sure as well.  Granulated garlic, onion, etc..

    So in truth, I don't have the list of spices the OP would be using.  But, if he picks and chooses whatever whole spices and seeds he can handle grinding, he'll end up with a much better product.  Um, I think it's called quality?  When I was working in tiny pizza shop, and everywhere else I've been until a year ago, I've always had a $20 Krups coffee grinder that I used for black pepper - and I ground it immediately before using it.  mmmmmm.

    Now I have the Waring, and it's speedy, powerful, and convenient.

    It's called mise en place.  No matter what we're doing, there's always going to be an aspect pre-preparation.  Grinding the spices is the OP's mise en place.
     
  16. chefhow

    chefhow

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    I would be willing to blind test you with a preground 3200 black pepper vs your fresh and 99% of the time people cant tell the difference.  You know why?  The level VO's is the same.

    As far as the rest of the products I bet you couldnt tell the difference and would be willing to bet that you would pick some preground over fresh ground spices alot of the time since some need to settle a bit before being fully developed. 

    Again, when working in a "tiny pizza shop"(your words) its a different animal than if you are going to be making 100's of pounds of products and have to grind them 6-8oz at a time.  It would KILL that little Waring you are talking about.    Mise en place is one thing and buy purchasing quality ground product he would be doing the right thing.  Get off your high horse and think about what the OP is trying to do.  THis isnt for a tiny shop its for retail sale.
     
  17. chefdave11

    chefdave11 Banned

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    You'll fail that blind test.  I'm a chef, not a scientist - but I do have a scientific approach and mind.  I watch the small batch of fresh ground pepper get lighter and lighter in color.  Less fragrant and aromatic.   I don't know what a VO level is, but it does not matter - because I've done the tests in the field.  And OK, yeah, don't buy a  $100 Waring for a huge job; buy the right machine.  The point is there IS a right way to do it, and a right machine for doing it that way.  Doesn't have to be factory-scale, but enough to get this guy's not-yet-fledgling business off the ground.  We know the way each of us would do, this can only be helpful for the OP in making his decisions.
     
  18. chefhow

    chefhow

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    I'm not a scientist either I am a chef turned corporate chef/culinologist and former casual rest/bar and then white table cloth fine dining restaurant owner.  I dont take a scientific approach to projects or food, its not science its flavor, texture, aroma and visual.  I understand food down to the molecular structure but I am also a realist and understand how things work in a REAL kitchen and what is and isnt realistic on many different levels.

    Anytime you want to come out to my facility I would welcome you and set up the test with the products of your choice starting with Black Pepper.  I have done this for many customers and some VERY well regarded Chefs around the country with SHOKING results.  Its amazing what you pick when its a blind test. 
     
  19. chefdave11

    chefdave11 Banned

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    Ok, I'm coming around to the idea that we're still talking about different products.  The ground black pepper that you're speaking of is coming out of your facility and is likely a way different product than the Sysco/Restaurant Depot/Standard brands of ground black pepper.

    It sounds like yours is ground differently, to different specifications, and is likely not sitting in warehouses for 2 years before making it into the pot.

    We're both very defensive about the products we produce/use/support.  Which is a good thing because it shows that we both believe in what we're doing - and we're supporting our positions with fact and not emotion.  Chances are that if I had to use a packaged ground black pepper, I'd choose yours.

    To your understanding of the world of commercial spices, am I wrong about the standard brands too?  Or would the product that you're producing just blow them away?
     
  20. chefhow

    chefhow

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    What my company produces is sold commercially to companies making flavors, we include them in blends and sell them to other companies for repackaged for retail.  We sell high quality products and set industry standards for quality in many respects. The milling process is pretty standardized throughout the industry, especially with pepper and we grind everything from a 6 mesh cracked to a 60 mesh powder but the level of volitile oils/pepperine (what gives pepper its flavor and aroma), is the same no matter what the grind. 

    Please dont confuse my position as defensive, I am trying to explain and educate you on a process that you dont know about but could be better served with some understanding. I want you to understand that what he needs isnt fresh ground and that you can get quality product off the shelf if you know what you are looking for.  Not everything needs to be produced right then and there and in some cases mellowing is to your benefit, its a matter of arming yourself with the knowledge and know how to make judgement calls and offering help to people without telling them that you have lost respect for them and you dont even know them.  Being a food snob and a "food nazi" is what turns people off and makes Chefs who work hard to break the traditional mold of us being either pompus asses or drunk drug addicts next to impossible.  Ask questions, gather info and then make a decision, just dont jump to conclusions and make assumptions.

    I dont want to preach but I have been a dishwasher, a prep cook, a line cook, an apprentice to the devil himself (as chronicled her in another post), an owner/operator, and an R&D person for 28 years, I know a thing or two and I am one of the younger guys here.  There is a ton of knowledge and respect on this board that is freely passed around, take advantage of it and use it to your benefit.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012