Sponsored by Jayshree Spices & Seasonings
Consistent menu items that become customer favorites are essential to a restaurant’s longevity, and many of the flavors that make such dishes so memorable are attributed to vibrant spices and seasonings.
Yet, seasonings can also become troublesome when managed improperly. Buying too much at once and using them too slowly diminishes their potency. When added incorrectly to specific recipes, dishes can become under- or over-seasoned. Additionally, buying the same seasonings from different providers in pursuit of cost savings can result in inconsistency, especially in batch recipes.
Good chefs spot those flavor anomalies and work to fix them, especially in chain operations where systemwide uniformity is a must. But according to Nish Bhagani of Jayshree Spices & Seasonings in Groveland, Florida, few chefs understand that the simplest way to solve such issues is sourcing high-quality, freshly ground spices that are blended, pre-measured, and packaged for dishes and entrées.
“Chefs and cooks can add those to any recipe, knowing the result will be consistent,” Nish says. “Keeping just the amount of seasonings you need in inventory at a restaurant also ensures they’re as fresh as possible. I think that’s something overlooked too often.”
A Spicy Heritage
Years ago, when Nish's parents began custom grinding and blending spices for a handful of restaurant customers in Central Florida, they discovered that a much larger need for those products remained unmet. Along with his brother Rajah, together they grew the company by selling spices and custom blends to larger chain customers that required system wide consistency. As the business expanded further away from its Florida roots, Jayshree saw the need to develop just-in-time inventory and delivery practices to ensure that spices arrived at restaurants in peak condition, no matter the distance.
“We don’t sell spices in bulk; no six-months’ supply upfront,” Nish says. “Our main advantage over competitors is providing fresher products.”
Customization is Key
Customization is another advantage, Nish adds. When a restaurant requests a recipe-specific spice blend, Jayshree’s lab analyzes the recipe along with a 300-gram sample of the finished dish to target its precise spice profile. The lab then returns two iterations of the dish: one based strictly on the recipe submitted, and one based on the use of Jayshree’s spices, “since the spices we use are fresher than most,” Nish says. “We usually have to adjust it to account for that.” Both options are returned to the restaurant for testing and adjusting, and a customized blend is created within about a week.
“Whether there are a few restaurants or 1,000, the spices and blends each unit receives are the same,” Nish says. “And those spices are pre-measured and packaged according to custom recipe batch requirements. No measuring, just add the spice pack and go.”
In customizing spice blends, Nish says that cost savings are often realized when flavors created by expensive ingredients can be replicated by combining less expensive spices. France’s Espelette pepper is one example of such a repositioning.
“This costs about $80 a pound—not inexpensive,” he says. “We were able to replicate the same flavor with a seasoning blend that costs as little as $18 a pound. That means you’re saving over 75 percent making this simple switch alone.”
Choosing pre-packaged spice blends also streamlines the total number of spices needed in restaurant kitchens. Instead of buying four, five, or as many as a dozen different spices to make a blend at the restaurant, Nish says Jayshree can reduce that to a single packaged spice blend that eliminates measuring by cooks. The quality is usually better, he adds, since most of Jayshree’s spice offerings are free of MSG, dyes, and additives.
When Secrecy is Essential
For some restaurants—Kentucky Fried Chicken’s famed secret 11 herbs and spices being the most famous example—spice combinations are so essential to their core products that keeping recipes confidential is mandatory. According to Rajah, if restaurant operators request it, recipe details can be omitted from spice packages.
“Private-label packaging means you don’t have to display your recipe to whoever is in the restaurant,” Rajah says. Whether to avoid large-scale corporate espionage or a peripatetic chef taking specific recipes to their next restaurant job, “Those stay in corporate files where no one can take it away from the company.”
Jayshree’s early reputation was built on rapid order turnaround, and 95 percent of spice orders ship the same day. Custom spice blends can be made and shipped in as little as 24 hours, if needed.
“All of our inventory is computerized and active, meaning that when something goes out the door, it updates in our system so we can predict customers’ future needs,” Nish says. He says Jayshree (which is their mother’s first name) keeps no more than a few weeks of inventory on hand. “We keep enough just to stay fresh, and we grind spices only when customers need them. We see what we do as a valuable service to the industry, as do our many customers.”
Tips for Spice Management
- Store spices in a cool, dark place.
- Always avoid storing spices near heat or flame.
- At about 6-months old, spices’ essential oils dissipate rapidly, lowering flavor potency.
- Keep spices in the smallest package possible to reduce exposure to air, which dulls flavor through oxidization.
- When using custom blends, eliminate mismeasurement by using spice pack sizes created for one recipe and/or batch.