Monday, October 30, 2006

A Chat with Allison Johnston of The Spice Trader

Allison Johnston and me in her wonderful shop The Spice Trader on Queen Street West, Toronto Check out the beautiful display behind us. The shop is very Zen and just by walking in the door - all my stresses disappear.

It's been a while since my last "Chat with...." I love talking to people who are passionate about what they do - and, naturally, I'm especially excited when chatting with people who are as fired up about all things food as I am. So when I was in my favorite spice shop in the entire city I asked co-owner Allison if she would chat with me about this perfect treasure. Here's what she had to say.....

R: How did your love of spices start?
A: I have always loved good quality flavourful food. I have travelled in the Middle East and have seen the spice markets in Jerusalem and Istanbul. The stories of Marco Polo always intrigued me and his descriptions of the smells and tastes. My partner Neil has lived in Europe and North America and has worked in restaurants before. He also loves good flavourful food and is an amazing cook.

R: When did you come up with the idea for The Spice Trader - my favorite spice shop in the city, by the way - and it's all organic, too!!!
A: Neil and I decided to do something together and in food when I moved to Toronto 2 years ago. We realized there were no places to get good quality organic spices. So we decided that we would open a store dedicated to herbs & spices. Having traveled in Europe, where there are spice shops in most cities, the idea wasn't new but we believe people prefer to shop in smaller stores with good service, where they can ask questions and smell and taste the delicious products.

R: What's the best part of running The Spice Trader?
A: Running your own business is incredibly challenging and rewarding. Your mistakes are your own as are your successes. I love watching people get excited about new spices and cooking and eating. I enjoy knowing we are doing something positive that is about health and passion and quality.

R: And, naturally, what is your biggest challenge?
A: The biggest challenge is not growing too quickly! We are trying to make sure we continue to give great service and keep the quality of our products, while growing the business.

R: What is your favorite spice?
A: My favorite spice changes month to month - right now it is Ras El Hanout a Moroccan mixture that is so good on meat, fish, in stews, soups and with root vegetables. It is perfect for this time of year as the weather turns chilly.

R: any last words - on spices or setting up a such a cool business?
A: We have a wonderful clientele. Our customers often return and bring other people to the store. There is no greater pleasure then knowing that people like our products and want more of them.

R: Speaking of which, since lots of my readers live far from Toronto, how can they get some of your wonderful spices (I particularly love your gift sets)?
A: We do have a web site and we take orders over the phone- 1. 647.430.7085

I made Allison's Moroccan inspired Lamb Stew last night, and it was delicious. The Ras El Hanout gave a subtle but awesome flavor...think slow cooked tagines and be prepared to be transported to exotic lands........


Brilynn said...

I love Spice Trader!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great store! I too love Ras El Hanout and use it a lot. Your dish looks nice!