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Lior Lev Sercarz on Spice Blending and Culinary Education

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About this episode

In Episode 8 of The meez Podcast, host Josh Sharkey interviews Lior Lev Sercarz, the chef, spice blender and owner of La Boîte, a biscuit and spice shop in New York City.

Lior’s passion for ingredients began at a young age when he would pick berries and go fishing in the river next to the Israeli kibbutz he grew up in. He later attended the Institute Paul Bocuse in France and worked for renowned chefs such as Olivier Roellinger and Daniel Boulud before dedicating himself to diving deep into the world of spices.

He has also collaborated with many incredible chefs like Eric Ripert and Apollonia Poilâne and is a bestselling cookbook author with three books and a fourth on the way - A Middle Eastern Pantry.

In this conversation, Lior Lev Sercarz discusses the importance of using high-quality spices not only for taste, but for better profits at restaurants. Lior’s approach to creating spice blends is considered a work of art, as he can meld flavors, colors, aromas, textures, and mouthfeel to create unique and timeless spice blends.

Lior also goes into detail about founding the Galilee Culinary Institute (GCI), which is set to open in May 2024 in Israel. The campus will include a restaurant, a wine bar, a coffee shop, a beer brewery, a chocolate lab, auditoriums, and classes. The program is designed to prepare students for various careers, such as working in a restaurant, opening their own, working in a lab for a food manufacturer, becoming a food stylist or food writer.

Where to find Lior Lev Sercarz:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(3:50) Lior’s background

(8:09) Challenges with sourcing spices

(11:34) Common misconceptions for spices

(14:17) Why high quality spices lead to better profits

(16:21) Lior’s blending process

(20:01) How spice collaborations start

(23:07) The most common spice blends

(26:51) Why Urfa Chili is addictive

(27:58) The future of the spice market in America

(33:19) What is the Galilee Culinary Institute?

(40:28) Do spices help kids open up to more food?

(42:28) Working with Olivier Rœllinger

(46:24) Why is it called La Boîte?


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]: 

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


My guest today is Lior Lev Sercarz. Lior is the chef, spice blender and owner of La Boîte, a biscuit and spice shop in New York City. He hails from Israel, where of course he was a sergeant in the army.


He also grew up in a kibbutz, and then he headed off to France to attend the Institute Paul Bocuse before working for some incredible chefs like Olivier Roellinger who was one of his mentors. And then traveling to the States to work for Daniel Boulud, which was his last stop before deciding to pursue his calling in life diving deep into the world of spices. Lior’s approach to creating spice blends is as close to a work of art as I think you'll find. He has an uncanny ability to meld not just flavors and colors and aromas, but also textures and mouth feel to create these unique and timeless spice brands that well chefs go crazy for.


He's collaborated with a ton of incredible chefs like Eric Ripert, Apollonia Poilâne, and plenty more. He's a bestselling cookbook author with three books and a fourth on the way, and if that's not enough, he's working on one of the most innovative approaches to a culinary academy that I've ever heard of in his home country of Israel. We're going to talk about that along with his past, the product lines of La Boîte, and generally Lior’s outlook on the spice industry at large. I hope you enjoy it.


This podcast is brought to you by meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. As a chef and restaurant owner for the past 20 years, I was frustrated that the only technology that we had in the kitchen was financial or inventory software. Those are important, but they don't address the actual process of cooking, training, collaboration, and consistent execution.


So I decided if it didn't exist, I'd do my best to get it built so the current and next generation of culinary pros have a digital tool dedicated to their craft. If you're a chef, mixologist operator, or generally if you manage recipes intended for professional kitchens, meez is built just for you.


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Lior, welcome to the pod. 

Lior Lev Sercarz [00:02:47]:

Thanks for having me. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:49]:

Very, very excited to have you on, man. 

Lior Lev Sercarz [00:02:51]:

Yeah, I'm excited to be here. Looking forward to it. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:51]:

Why I was so excited to have you on is one, I think you probably can agree there's a lot more sort of spice purveyors coming about now that have really great products and are sourcing well. But I don't think I've met anyone that in addition to being an incredible sort of purveyor of spices and someone who knows so much about the spice world, you are, and I know you, this sounds silly or cliche, but you're like most definitely an artist when it comes to the craft of spices. You're not just sort of buying and sourcing them, you manipulate them and you use your inspirations of people and places and history to create these blends.


And I also love that you have this sort of element of texture to the blends that you create. Not everything is the same ground. Some things are a little coarser and finer, and I'm really interested to hear how you got into not just the world of spices, but the way in which you go about creating all of these blends. I know your background is a chef, but maybe if you could just, you know, for the audience, just let us know, like how you got into this, why you approached spices the way you do. 

Lior Lev Sercarz [00:03:50]: 

Yeah. Sure. Thank you. I mean, it's been a long journey. It's definitely not over, which gets me excited that I don't think you will ever end this quest of flavor and taste, as you mentioned. Yes, there are a few players on the market today that weren't around five, six years ago, even 10 years ago.


To some extent, it's our fault for raising awareness for spices and then I think other people seeing an opportunity. Listen, it's great. I think that as long as there's great awareness, I'm happy to have other people playing in the market. It makes our job a bit more complex, you know, keeping our game the highest level.

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