We found FitzHenry, a stylishly dressed, slim, energetic woman, at Oakland's Grand Lake market. We left with and a small armful of other ingredients. FitzHenry's extensive background in marketing is in evidence at her stall: Snifters of richly colored spices invite shoppers to smell her fragrant blends, and her Occasional Gourmet products come in small, resealable envelopes to attract home chefs who "tend to cook as a means of entertainment" or "would like to prepare sophisticated meals at home with easy-to-use ingredients."
But the spices aren't just marketing flash. FitzHenry seeks out high-quality suppliers who use organic sources when possible (she is also looking into Fair Trade spices). She then combines her raw materials to create well-balanced, flavorful blends. "I do a fair amount of research first," she explains, "then I work, rework and tweak the blends by tasting and trying them in a variety of dishes." The result, she says, are spices with "my own signature, a style of blending that is unique to my products."
Photos by Melissa Schneiderpiment d'espelette