Lior Lev Secarz is a spice blender extraordinaire. We first met at his spice shop, La Boite, during a party during the World Cup Finals. I was immediately intrigued by the alchemy Lior created in his space, a tapestry of color, texture and scents from the displays of spices and array of food goods. Besides creating a spice shop that is less a store than an experience, Lior is also a cook and an author. And now the Israeli-born food entrepreneur came to visit our kitchen at Stir the Pots, sharing some of his vision, thoughts, and insights.
What is the difference with a cook and a spice blender?
Cooks prepare different types of food and dishes. As a spice blender I create spice blends and source single spice that I then sell to cooks to prepare dishes. I use my knowledge of over 20 years as a cook to create spice blends.
How were you drawn into the culinary arts?
I loved food and cooking from an early age. I always felt very happy eating and cooking so making it into a job was very easy for me. We traveled a lot as kids around the world and I think that also helped.
If you put too much seasoning into food, how can you fix that mistake or are you headed into a brick wall?
You can try adding acid to tone it down but sometimes it is just took late.
How do your spices cut the guesswork or highlight palate senses?
Spice blends allow you to elevate every dish very quickly without too much effort. It can take the simplest preparation to the next level even without cooking. The blends add scent, taste and textures.
Is Israeli cuisine distinguishable or a hybrid of cross-cultural diaspora on a plate?
It is a unique mix of many cultures and influences. It is very simple, full of flavor, bold and exciting filled with fresh ingredients.
European cuisines, from Alsace to Rome have an imprint on some of their most well known dishes from Jews, foie gras, artichokes and is that recognized?
You can find many hints of European cuisines on Jewish and Israeli food. The fact that jews lived and still live around the world has a lot to do with it.
Today our Ashkenazi Delis are a bygone era. What is new Jewish food taste?
I think Askenazi food is still a thing and might become the next thing soon after the Sepharadic wave.
Can spice be multi and cross-cultural or can too much be confusion?
I make blend like I create dishes. It has to have a story, a purpose and hopefully layers. It is meant to be used always in as many possible preparations without any specific culture or ethnic dish.
Like Magellan, you are introducing spices to a land like America that can be rather plain, who is best equipped to use your products?
Anyone can use our spices and blends. This is one of the main things we try to show. You can use them everyday on anything.
Tell us about La Boite. You have new projects sprouting?
La Boite has been around for 13 years, spreading the love of spices and good food. We continue every year to add new blends and single spices and show that there are endless ways to use spices.
You put out some wonderful books, is there a new one?
My latest book is Mastering spice.It has over 200 every day recipes with spices.
What is your favorite spice?
There is not just one but rather the idea that I cannot live without them