Rory Mitchell of Nature's Kitchen is a flavor wizard. With his wife and family, he crafts delicious sauces, spice rubs, and marinades that take dishes to a whole new level.
We got to ask him a few questions about how he became the excellent cook and foodmaker he is today. Read on!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
As a child, I wanted to be a fireman, because I wanted to be able to save people.
Who taught you to cook? And, if the answer is different: how did your interest in food and cooking ignite?
I mostly learned to cook, among other things, from my mother, starting very early. My mom has always maintained that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach and bad food would corrupt it.
So, what inspired you to experiment with Jamaican and Indian food cultures?
I was introduced to Indian cuisine by my wife, who’s Indian. I became even more fascinated with the cuisine and culture after my first visit to India. My mother-in-law, who is also a great cook, taught me a few things — specifically, her focus was on the health properties of the various herbs and spices. This opened a whole new world for me that I hadn’t noticed before.
What were some of the spices you didn’t know what to do with before you started experimenting with them in your cooking?
All of them! I used to use many of the spices — like coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and cardamom — in my former life, but I didn’t know them by name, and wasn’t even aware of some. They’re all part of the spice blend we know as “curry” or “curry powder,” used in popular Jamaican recipes like curried chicken or curried goat.
Today, we have a spice box with a variety of spices that we use individually, because we can control the amount. I sometimes chew black pepper corn to aid digestion when I eat heavy meals, use turmeric for colds or when our son gets a bruise, and I’m discovering more ways to use spices every day.
What are some of your favorite spices to work with, and how do you use them?
Some of my favorite are the ones I use on most days — cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder — in cooking. I sometimes use a pinch of cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon to flavor my coffee. I use turmeric and ginger to make golden milk when my son gets a sniffle.
The dry chicken rub from Nature's Kitchen
What do you find are some of the more polarizing spices, the acquired-taste ones?
Two things come to mind: asafoetida and garam masala (which is a blend of spices) are both very pungent, and you quickly learn to use them in small quantities to avoid overwhelming the flavor of the food.
Tell us about how you developed the products you currently sell. How much experimentation and recipe-tweaking and taste-testing did it take?
I’m always experimenting and tweaking.
You’ve said that you love entertaining — how, and how often, do you entertain guests at home? Who do you particularly love to cook for?
My wife and I love having guests over. I think this is a carryover from both our grandparents, who’ve always cooked extra, expecting uninvited guests. Nowadays, with extracurricular activities, we don’t entertain as often as we would like, but we try to get together with our neighbors or other friends at least once a month. Who do I love to cook for? Anyone who loves to eat!
How old is Zachary, and what are some of his favorite foods?
Zachary is 8 years old. Of late, his favorite food is pasta. He loves gulab jamun (an Indian sweet) as dessert.
What’s your favorite local restaurant, café, or market?
Tabla (Indian); Heirloom BBQ, especially on Fridays when they have beef ribs; Nahm Thai; Sushi Nami; Tropics Jerk Center; Restaurant Eugene; and Local Three are just a few.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you cook? If so, what/which?
I mostly listen to Reggae. My wife loves Bollywood music.
What are your favorite cookbooks?
Google! We have a few, but the best ones are what we collect from aunties, uncles, and anyone who’s willing to share.
What are your favorite non-cookbook books or authors?
I like listening to audiobooks. Some of the authors whose work I listen to are Jack Campbell, Derek B. Miller, Marlon James. B. V. Larson, and Rachel Caine.
What’s your favorite comfort meal to make?
That would be beef ribs cooked in the pressure cooker.
What’s your go-to dinner party meal to make?
Whatever my wife tells me to make! I like doing fish, roasted. A stew, beef or chicken. Rice & beans. Jerk chicken, or, if I have time, a brisket.
What’s your favorite drink of the moment?
Dark rum on the rocks.
We're going to take you through some quick-fire questions — answer these before you have a chance to think about it! Dog or cat?
Tomato sauce or pesto?
Regular fries or waffle fries?
Chocolate or caramel?
Pizza or pasta?
Wine, beer, or cocktail?