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How I Met (Your Brand) is a Q&A series designed to connect people and ideas. HIMYB spotlights diverse perspectives, using the power of stories to inspire and build inclusive communities.

Trent Blodgett

Chef and Founder of Spice Tribe

When did you decide to become a chef? 

I have always loved cooking and my dad really instilled that love in me at an early age, but working in a professional kitchen was never really a thought. I dropped out of college and was super lost and confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I first started working as a busboy at PF Changs which then led to a support server/prep cook position at Coqueta in SF. I did not go to culinary school, but my culinary training started hard and fast at Coqueta under some great chefs. My passion for cooking continued to grow day by day as I learned the ins and outs of the professional kitchen. After work, I would read The Culinary Institute of America and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, along with lots of research about different cultures and how cuisine tells people stories of resilience. 

Describe your food style in 5 words.

Rustic. Seasonal. Conscious. Story-driven. Spice-laden.

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What are your favorite ingredients to work with and why?

Chiles are by far my favorite ingredients because they remind me of my childhood. Mostly in the form of dried red chile sauces. I love spices because they can help elevate even the simplest of ingredients and completely alter the story or direction of a dish. A simple barbecue chicken can taste like it was made on completely opposite sides of the earth simply by changing a couple of spices.

From our sourcing practices helping farmers, to our products helping cooks eat healthy to giving back to our communities. I strive to be an example for my son and teach him that strength and happiness is born from compassion. 

What does “home cooking” mean to you?

Home cooking is a way to celebrate and be grateful for your friends, family, and food. I believe cooking at home is crucial for your physical and mental health. Not everyone is so lucky to have home cooked meals on the table so it is truly a thing to cherish and celebrate. My favorite home cooked meals are barbecue, rice and beans, and a seasonal salad, or a risotto.

Who were your mentors, and how did they help you?

I have been very fortunate to have quite a few mentors in my life. My ceramic teacher in high school, Mark Jaeger, was my first mentor who really helped me see the beauty and importance of self-expression through art. I wanted to pursue art through college, but after I dropped out of college I realized that food was my form of art and self-expression. From there I have had many great chef mentors like Michael Chiarello, Patricio Dufoo, and Richard Visconte, just to name a few. They taught me everything from discipline, how to run a successful operation, to cooking over open fire. 

Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?

Jose Andres has always been my huge role model. He is an incredible chef who has dedicated his life to feeding those who are less fortunate. He is a hero. 

[Tearing my pec major tendon and needing to get surgery] ended up being a blessing in disguise  because it gave me some time to reflect on what is important in life and how I can pivot my love for food to really help people and make a difference. This self-reflection planted the seed for Spice Tribe.

What’s been the most transformational part of your career so far?

I was working as a grill station line cook at Coqueta. Dinner shifts were brutal and fast paced. I was stressed, drained and simply unhealthy but I loved every second of it. I ended up tearing my pec major tendon and needing to get surgery. This ended up being a blessing in disguise  because it gave me some time to reflect on what is important in life and how I can pivot my love for food to really help people and make a difference. This self-reflection planted the seed for Spice Tribe.

Tell us about Spice Tribe. What’s the idea or concept behind it? 

Spice Tribe‘s deeper meaning is all about celebrating humanity’s interconnected nature through our food. Spice Tribe started as a way to express my love for food and travel in the form of spice blends that tell stories in a unique way. I use these spice blends to create healthy recipes that help empower people in the kitchen to cook nutritious and delicious meals. I wanted to create a brand that benefits people and the Earth from the ground up. I began sourcing ingredients from small farms around the world to ensure the farmers are being paid fairly and the customers get a much fresher product. Now we sell single-origin spices that are sourced directly from these small farms to highlight the unique terroir of each spice while improving the livelihood of the communities that grow them.

Spice Tribe‘s deeper meaning is all about celebrating humanity’s interconnected nature through our food. Spice Tribe started as a way to express my love for food and travel in the form of spice blends that tell stories in a unique way.

Are you involved in any community organizations?

We created an initiative in partnership with The City Eats called Tribe For Change where we cook 600- 1,000 meals a month for people in need. 

You mentioned earlier that you draw much of your inspiration for new recipes and food combinations from your travels. How do you incorporate different cultures in your recipes?

Travel has played a huge role in my love for culture and food. Traveling has humbled me and taught me so much about the world and other people and how much we have in common. There is no better way to learn about people and culture than to go to a new place and share a meal with locals. I believe all people are incredibly connected and my favorite way to celebrate our similarities and differences is through food. I tell the stories of my travels with my spice blends. They are all very unique and are a homage to the amazing and inspiring people I have met on my travels who have shown me a piece of their culture. 

There is no better way to learn about people and culture than to go to a new place and share a meal with locals. I believe all people are incredibly connected and my favorite way to celebrate our similarities and differences is through food. 

What do you do to stay current on new trends in the food industry?

The past few years I have attended the Fancy Food Show which is a great way to see upcoming and current trends. Social media is another way to see current trends, but I recommend trade shows and their resources. I think SFA (Specialty Food Association) is a great one. 

How are you navigating business challenges due to the current state of our economy?

I feel very fortunate that Spice Tribe was up and running before COVID. Our pop up and catering events were all cancelled and we would have been completely out of work like so many others if it wasn’t for Spice Tribe. We have had to deal with constant issues with our supply chain as it was very difficult to get our shipments from overseas while everything was shut down. We had to pivot our business away from wholesale to restaurants to really focus on direct to consumer. Fortunately many people are at home cooking and keeping us in business. We are doing everything we can to keep our community fed during these times because we know so many are not as fortunate. 

I wanted to create a brand that benefits people and the Earth from the ground up. I began sourcing ingredients from small farms around the world to ensure the farmers are being paid fairly and the customers get a much fresher product.

What can we expect from Spice Tribe in the next couple of years?

We are looking forward to some collaborations we are working on where we will tell the stories of some amazing individuals in the form of spices. Also we will continue to add more exciting products (whole chiles coming soon!!).

When do you feel most inspired?

I feel most inspired while I am outdoors or traveling. I love getting out of my comfort zone and going to new places and learning about other cultures. There is so much to learn about the world. I am like a sponge and every person I meet or place I go becomes part of my story. My perspective is constantly evolving as I meet more people and learn from their point of view. There is so much truth to the quote by Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” 

From our sourcing practices helping farmers, to our products helping cooks eat healthy to giving back to our communities. I strive to be an example for my son and teach him that strength and happiness is born from compassion. 

What’s your definition of success?

Success to me is all about finding your purpose and helping others. I want to create a sustainable business that truly helps make a difference in lives in every step of the business. From our sourcing practices helping farmers, to our products helping cooks eat healthy to giving back to our communities. I strive to be an example for my son and teach him that strength and happiness is born from compassion. 

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This year has shown us how important it is to be able to evolve and adapt without any warning. So many restaurants and small businesses have been completely turned upside down this year. It has been incredibly inspiring to see how some of these businesses were able to pivot and adapt to their advantage

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time and Buddhist mindfulness practice really helped turn my life around. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk, peace activist and author and I have read all of his books. One of his quotes that really stuck with me was this:

“When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end. A wave can be compared with other waves, and we can call it more or less beautiful, higher or lower, longer lasting, or less long lasting. But if we look more deeply, we see that a wave is made of water. While living the life of a wave, it also lives the life of water. It would be sad if the wave did not know that it is water.”

This mindset has helped me see that we are all waves and no two waves are the same but we are all made up of water. This concept is what the SpiceTribe is rooted in. 

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs or small business owners?

This year has been devastating for the restaurant industry and small businesses. The storm will pass. Stay true to what you love to do and don’t give up on your dreams. This year has shown us how important it is to be able to evolve and adapt without any warning. So many restaurants and small businesses have been completely turned upside down this year. It has been incredibly inspiring to see how some of these businesses were able to pivot and adapt to their advantage

Connect with Trent Blodgett at SpiceTribe.com and @SpiceTribe!

Interviewed by: Maria Mayoralgo