What’s your story? How did your business start?
Local Chef Vernon Blackmore, set up Choose Spice after years of requests at his Restaurant ‘The Table’ (Woodbridge) for Asian products that they could use to cook their own authentic dishes at home. Vernon decided to give his customers a quick and easy way of making the South East Asian Curries in their own home, by creating the pastes, and so Choose Spice was born.
“Spice has always been a huge part of my life with my South-East Asian heritage. The pastes are a tribute to Chiu, my Malaysian mother and her love for vibrant spices in her cooking – our original name, Chiu’s Spice became Choose Spice!” – Vernon Blackmore.
How many people are in your team?
Choose Spice is a two-man team consisting of Vernon Blackmore and Jamie Symons
Where are you based?
Based here at the Food Hall, in the Cook House building (where the Restaurant @ Suffolk Food Hall is). We have a kitchen below the Restaurant.
How did you get into cooking?
As a child Vernon grew up in the kitchens of Satis House (Yoxford) where his mum’s (Chui) South East Asian curries were famous – we still get customers talking about Chui’s curries, and how they enjoy our pastes and the connection with Chui. Cooking has always been in Bernon’s VClobood as well as the love of spice and vibrant fresh ingredients.
Currently, Vernon runs ‘The Spice Bar @ The Table’ (Woodbridge), ‘The White Horse’ (Easton), ‘The Anchor’ (Woodbridge) and ‘The Duck’ (Campsea Ash). You will always find one of our curries on the menu.
What makes your products unique?
With our pastes you have all the zing and depth of a chef-made dish, ready-made and at your fingertips! They are incredibly easy to use and versatile, as we can see from the Sri Lankan Sausage Roll of the Month.
They are all winners of the Guild of Fine Foods Taste Awards with the Sri Lankan, winning for the second time this year.
You can also make them to suit your taste, with a paste you can make it as spicy or mild as you like, add all your own favourite ingredients and have a first-rate curry in the comfort of your own home.
You can even take the credit – we don’t mind.
Inspiration behind your branding and products?
Vernon’s heritage is of South East Asia and we have tried to capture this with the name, colours and most importantly the taste of the products.
Something that your customers may not realise about your business?
We run ‘The Spice Bar @ The Table’ in Woodbridge, and we are based at the Suffolk Food Hall, if you are further afield we sell online too at www.choosespice.co.uk
What do you pair your products with?
Chicken, Fish, Vegetables, Prawns, Lamb, Beef.
The chicken works with all three curry pastes as do the vegetables.
I would recommend trying fish or prawns with the Goan Paste. Vegetables or Lamb with the Sri Lankan Paste and Beef with the Rendang Paste.
A valuable lesson you have learnt?
You have got to get your customers to try our products. With so many run-of-the-mill curry sauces and pastes out there, if the customer has not experienced the vibrant fresh tastes of Choose Spice they will usually reach for something they know rather than try something new.
What is your inspiration?
Chui Blackmore – Vernon’s mum. We have inherited her love for spice and vibrant fresh flavours and her determination. She came to this country with nothing but a love for cooking, and now have many loyal customers as well as a curry paste business, named after her!
Five ways to use your pastes?
1. As a curry. Simply add the paste and a can of coconut milk to a saucepan. Throw in your favourite ingredients and you will have a first-rate curry within minutes.
Tip – if you don’t like coconut milk or are looking to loose a few calories use a Greek yogurt instead.
2. As a marinade for your Summer BBQ
3. To give your vegetables a spicy kick for your Sunday roast.
4. As a spicy sauce to pour over your fish and meat.
5. To mix with mince-meat and make fantastic Koftas, sausage rolls or scotch eggs.
How many products do you sell?
We sell three curry pastes:
• The Sri Lankan Curry Paste
• Goan Curry Paste
• Rendang Curry Paste
What is next for your business?
We are looking at new flavours and promoting our current range to a wider audience.
Name one thing without which you could not live without?
A can of coconut milk (has to be full fat)
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
The power to rid the world of pre-made sauces that have lived on a shop shelf for most of their lives and lack any sort of vibrancy. They stop out potential customers from discovering us and the fresh taste of a paste rather than a sauce. It is the fusing of our paste and the coconut milk that give products the wow factor.
Favourite song and why?
Spice up your life – by the Spice Girls of course.
Guild of Fine Food Judges comments…
Sri Lankan 2023
“The spice level was good, as was the heat on the finish. The sweetness, in combination with the acidity of the tomatoes, is very well executed. The judges have already started creating imaginary dishes with this and think it would make a wonderful marinade”.
“We found the paste to be quite the journey. There were defined flavour layers taking you through fragrance, some citrus and finishing with a deep warmth. It had complexity and lingered on the palate. We would love to try and cook with this ourselves.”
“The aroma of this sauce was the first thing that hit us in a good way. We enjoyed the spicing which was delicate and well-balanced. We got the coconut both in flavour and texture. Overall a very good sauce which had a homemade feel to it”.
“This product has a bright, attractive colour and appealing aroma as well as a smooth, silky consistency that would coat other elements of a dish well. It is well seasoned, has a level of depth and complexity that is pleasing to the palate and a pleasant heat level”.