Who’s For Dinner with Steven Dotsch, The Speculaas Spice Master Chef?
Steven Dotsch is the Founder of Speculaas Spice Company which is based in Highgate, North London. The spice mix is based on his Dutch grandmother’s sweet tasting spice mix. He also introduced speculaas biscuit dedicated wooden moulds that help home bakers around the world make authentic looking Dutch biscuits. He recently launched a dedicated website for vandotsch speculaas spice recipes, including contributions from food bloggers, bakers, chefs and two Great British Bake Off finalists. Read his great interview and be inspired!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where does your love of food come from?
My love of food tends to be biased towards sweet tasting delights. My mother made some great cakes and desserts, including the famous ‘boter koek’ (butter cake) and speculaas biscuits.
My love for speculaas biscuits began at a young age when growing up in Amsterdam. In those days kids were given home baked speculaas biscuits ‘sandwiched’ in butter creamed sandwiches to eat at school, at break-time.
What would you say has been your greatest food-related accomplishment to date?
Many years later, having moved to London, the inspiration to set up The Speculaas Spice Company came with the realisation that I really missed the smell and taste of the real McCoy – despite taking regular trips to The Netherlands, each time returning with more and more Speculaas biscuits, nothing came close to the evocative taste and smell of the biscuits from my childhood.
And so the plan was hatched to resurrect my Grandmother’s original recipe for the delicious sweet tasting spice mix.
The vandotsch speculaas spice mix consists of a perfectly-balanced mixture of nine, mostly, organic spices including real, high grade, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, cloves, ginger and six other spices in order to give our spice mix that unique kick. The vandotsch speculaas sweet spice mix can be used in many sweet tasting dishes, and, even some savoury dishes; think sweet tagine, sweet curry, pork and applesauce dishes, etc. In fact anywhere where such a dish uses cinnamon, consider replacing it and any other spices with vandotsch speculaas spice mix as 55% of our spice mix contains real, high grade organic ground cinnamon from Sri Lanka.
After several months and numerous tasting sessions, I succeeded in creating biscuits that had the taste and smell of my childhood – infused with the Speculaas spice mix based on my Grandmother’s original recipe, with the spices being released at different phases of the eat. I soon realised that I had created the perfect ‘delivery mechanism’ for people to taste the vandotsch speculaas spice mix.
How did you start your career in food? Please describe your journey
Having been in finance in one form or another, for 30 years or so, I started my career in food quite accidentally. Several years ago, my father found his mother’s sweet tasting spice recipe in some old papers and asked me what he should do with it. Never one to miss an interesting opportunity, I took it with me to London and started to research the food ingredients market in the UK, realising soon that speculaas spice was a rather unknown spice mix. The rest is as they say: history.
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Short term: Keeping up with demand and scaling up. Currently, The Speculaas Spice Company is just a one man band with mixing, production, packaging and labeling all done in-house while at the same time dispatching online orders coming from both the UK and much further afield. Mid term: Scaling up whilst maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the brand and the product. I am not interested in becoming a mass-producer.
Longer term: Recognition of the impact of the vandotsch speculaas spice mix as a food ingredient eventually taking cinnamon to another level all together will hopefully attract the interest of the more aspirant distribution channels such as high quality delicatessen stores and luxury department stores like Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Harrods.
What is your favourite meal and why?
Loving simple and tasty food that is made with best quality ingredients, a particular favourite is the freshest of wild salmon marinated in diced stem ginger and ginger syrup, some olive oil, together with my vandotsch speculaas spice mix, wrapped in silver paper, cooked in the oven, served with some steamed broccoli or stir fried kale.
Name 3 ingredients that you cannot live without?
Well obviously the vandotsch speculaas spice mix but also black pepper and ground ginger.
Who’s For Dinner with you? Who would you invite for a meal of a lifetime with you and why?
As I have never met my grandmother, I would love to have dinner with her. Apparently, even in the midst of the Depression, during the 1930s, she was able to create quite decent meals feeding eight children. And, of course discussing with my grandmother, the history of the spice mix and her experiences of cooking and baking with it.
Founder of The Speculaas Spice Company Ltd
26 Cholmeley Park
020 8374 8718
Celebrating all things food-related.