Spicing things up

Chef Douglas Katz adds a new ingredient to his professional menu: Fire Spice Company

PHOTO | Michael C. Butz Some of Fire Spice Company's spices are shown here.

PHOTO | Michael C. Butz | Some of Fire Spice Company’s spices are shown here.

By Michael C. Butz

In December, diners at Chef Douglas Katz’s fire food and drink on Shaker Square may have noticed the debut of Quatre Épices (“four spices”), a spice blend designed for holiday-timed French spice cakes, on display and available for purchase at the hostess stand.

Likewise, visitors to Heights Arts’ recent exhibition, “At Table: Cleveland Culinaria,” undoubtedly saw an even wider variety of Katz spice blends as the centerpiece of a display featuring works from several local artists.

The good news for anyone whose appetite was whetted by the thought of those flavors – among them Burmese, Ethiopian, Jamaican and Moroccan – is that Katz’s full compliment of 12 spices soon will be available for purchase, and more importantly, for tasting.

Katz will launch his Fire Spice Company on May 1, making his spices available at his restaurants, fire and Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art, as well as online. Accompanying each spice will be a recipe card meant to inspire home cooks.

“We want people to cook in their kitchen but not be overwhelmed by spice,” says Katz, who adds that he’s also exploring national distribution as well as selling his spices at “high-end culinary boutiques” like museum gift shops and cookware shops.

Fire Spice Company’s origins can be traced to the kitchen at fire food and drink.

“We’re interested in learning about culture through food, so we’ve played with spice blends from time to time,” he says. Taking home spices from fire to make a curry dish for himself ultimately inspired him to start Fire Spice Company, he adds.

“As I started to sauté the onions, garlic and ginger, and then I added the spices – you realize you’re really cooking when you add this depth of flavor to your dish,” he says. “I thought if I could package this, it would be the coolest thing for a home cook – and they could experience what I experience as a chef.

“Then I came up with 12 spice blends,” he says. “I started playing with them, and I came up with the recipes.”

Those with an adventurous palate will appreciate Fire Spice Company’s international flair.

“We picked cultures that highlight spices, so we have a lot of Southeast Asian cultures like Indian, Thai and Vietnamese, and we have a lot of the southern United States, like rib (Texan) and chili (New Mexican) spices,” he explains.

Katz adds that though his Southern-inspired spices call for “pork” in their recipes, people can use them just as effectively on, say, brisket or non-pork ribs.

An Israeli spice will soon join his mix of offerings.

“We’re certainly going to add an Israeli spice in the next year, like za’atar,” he says. “I just went to Israel in December; there are other cultures we want to do, but we want to make sure we have a good understanding first before we decide to do them.”

Each year, Katz plans to introduce a new set of 12 spice blends and recipes. Refills of spices will also be available, and through blogs, Katz and his team intend to suggest new recipes for his spices as time goes by. And if that isn’t enough, home cooks also will have a chance to learn by watching Katz in action.

“(Creating spices) gives me a great opportunity to do demonstrations and classes around these recipes, so it’ll be fun for me, too.” js

Leave a Reply