A self-made spice master, Lior Lev Sercarz has rubbed elbows with the world's greatest chefs. Read on to learn more about his special blend of work.
James Beard Foundation: What’s your job description?
Lior Lev Sercarz: I own La Boîte à Epice, a line of unique and, at times, personalized spice blends for chefs all over the country as well as home cooks. I also produce a seasonal biscuit collection called La Boîte à Biscuits.
JBF: How did you get your job?
LLS: It took me 12 years to put the concept together while working around the world for some amazing chefs. One day, three years ago, I just started my own business, creating everything from nothing.
JBF: What past experiences have prepared you for your current position?
LLS: I started cooking 15 years ago for a catering company in Israel. I stayed there for three years, then moved to Lyon to attend the Paul Bocuse Institute to study cooking, pastry arts, and hospitality management. During my studies I completed two stages, one of which was at Les Maison des Bricour under Oliver Roellinger. He masterfully uses spice in his cuisine, and he initiated my own passion for spices.
After my stint at Les Maison des Bricour, I lived in Lyon for another three years, working at L’Oxalys, a Michelin-starred restaurant located on the highest ski resort in Europe. Then I relocated to New York City, landing a job under Daniel Boulud.
Working for all these great chefs gave me a better understanding of what I wanted to be doing with my career. Chef Roellinger, in particular, pushed me to go out on my own and start telling my story.
JBF: What’s a typical day like for you?
LLS: I wake up at 5:00 A.M. and work until 2:00 P.M. cooking breakfast and lunch for executives at a large financial institute. After that I begin the day’s spice deliveries, going around New York City to various restaurants. I usually have a few meetings with clients, or I’m showing products to prospective ones. I also visit many stores, looking for ideas for packaging and trying other spices from around the world. I am back at my desk by 8:00 P.M., responding to emails, fulfilling and shipping orders, taking care of accounting. After that I finally get around to making my spice blends and biscuits, wrapping up the day around 11:30 P.M.
JBF: What's the most exciting part of your job? What do you like least?
LLS: The most exciting part is meeting talented chefs and people who speak my language. It’s amazing to create a new product and sell it to appreciative customers. What I like the least is not having enough hours in the day to get everything done.
JBF: What advice would you give to someone who’d like a job like yours?
LLS: Be ready to invest 100 percent of yourself, love what you do, and do what you do best.