Barry Zelcer wants to upgrade your kitchen, your palate, and the entire way you prepare and eat food by creating a new way to experience and deliver spices. Using the pure, potent goodness of spice extracts in a mini spray bottle was his genius idea on how to do your flavoring a favor(ing). Meet Spray Gourmet Liquid Spices.
What food experiences did you have as a child?
My mother was known as the best home cook. She was versatile in her cooking and always had us trying new dishes. But I never fancied myself a foodie — I just enjoy trying new foods and different cuisines.
When did you know you were on to something?
As I started researching various spices and the journeys they take from all corners of the earth before reaching our plates, I started learning more about the processes they go through and how they’re tapered, refined, cleaned, and radiated (sometimes more than once), losing a great deal of the natural flavor as a result. So my partner and I started experimenting and found that when you eat a dish with black pepper in it, you’re only getting hints of the true spice. Unless you bite into a freshly dried peppercorn, you won’t experience the whole, full flavor of black pepper. We wanted to give the consumer this full, beautiful, and bold taste. Our goal became to provide the cleanest, most delicious spices and herbs in their purest form.
Where did you get the idea for your product?
One day I was watching my mom chatting on the phone, barely paying attention to the brisket she was shaking paprika over. She walked away and told me to put it in the oven. When I picked up the pan, I saw a perimeter of paprika on the counter. I knew right then that there had to be a better way to flavor our food.
How long did it take for your product to go from concept to production?
A product can be stuck in conception perpetually; there’s no end to making something better. The trick is to know when to stop and turn to the people around you to get their feedback. We’ve spent a great deal of time on conception — years, in fact — because our product is something that didn’t exist before. Eventually we had to make the decision that the point we were at was as good as it would get and it would only get better once more people had tasted and used it. It was no easy feat, but here we are.
Who helped you the most in getting to where you are now?
There have been so many people who have been willing to help me in pursuing this business. When I look back and think about how I’ve gotten to where I am, it’s fully attributable to the friends and acquaintances who were willing to guide me in their area of expertise without asking for or expecting anything back — from reviewing NDAs, patents, and contracts to tasting the spices with true chef palates to continuing to support my drive to pursue this dream I had for so long. I look forward to being able to pay that kindness forward to others some day.
How is using Spray Gourmet Liquid Spices different from sprinkling some spices on a dish?
The reason we use dry spices is because they’re convenient. There’s a great deal of maintenance that goes into buying, keeping, and preparing fresh herbs and spices. With liquid spices, you have something that’s pure, like a fresh ingredient, and convenient, like a dry spice. Personally, I think our spray method is even easier to use than dry spices are. Each spray bottle has been measured to express an amount (an eighth of a teaspoon, a quarter of a teaspoon, a pinch, depending on the spice) that’s most relevant to the way that spice is used in most kitchens. Also, with a spray, you avoid that dreaded clump that inevitably forms around the cap of your dry spices.
What challenges did you have in getting your product to market?
Educating the consumer that there is a better alternative out there. Once people try our spices, I think they’ll understand and see this is the future of spices.
What memorable moments stick out in your mind?
When we started making our black pepper spray, we brought out a few different possible black peppers to try. We were having some issues with the atomization (how the spice particles break up in the air). So there we were in the lab, four adults testing out different variations, and every time someone sprayed the pepper we were all infected with nonstop sneezing. We were laughing so hard, sneezing, and rubbing our eyes that I don’t think we ever made it through all the iterations. It wasn’t exactly the type of pepper spray we were looking for!
Barry in 60 Seconds Family: Married to Rochelle and father to four amazing boys. Where he was raised: Brooklyn and Monsey. Where he lives now: Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. Favorite snack: Gushers. Favorite dish: A good fettuccine Alfredo (I eat pasta like an Italian). Detail-oriented to a fault: The trait that has helped me the most in developing a product is my laser-eyed attention to detail. Nothing is too small to be overlooked. A tool or instrument you can’t live without: My tefillin. They’re the most powerful things I have. Job switch: I went from finance to spices. I’ve always been more of the creative type than the sitting-in-an-office type. Living in Israel and watching this small nation thrive in tech and medicine awoke my creative talents.
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 713)
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