Interview with Essie Bartels (Essentials of Fine Cooking '16)
My name is Essie Bartels. I am the Owner & Spice Mixologist for Essiespice. It’s a small start-up out of New Jersey. We make small batch spice blends and sauces/condiments that use traditional West-African cooking methods and spices but with a fusion of world flavors. In 2016, I took the Essentials of Fine Cooking course at ICC.
– What did you do before attending ICC?
I worked in Corporate America for 8.5 years but around the 6 year mark, I started making Essiespice Sauces and spice blends. I worked at Hitachi, Panasonic, Unilever and ADP. My career allowed me to travel a lot and I also studied in Europe while in College — my work and my travels are a big part of my sauces.
– What is your best memory from your time at ICC?
Chef Guido made a sauce out of duck stock and fat and it was the best sauce I have ever had in my life! I honestly will never forget that sauce.
– What was your inspiration behind Essiespice and your products?
I am inspired by West African cooking and spices. A lot of my inspiration also comes from visiting 24 countries during my travels. I want to teach people about the indigenous food from West-Africa especially our spices, and also to highlight my experiences with global flavors and cuisines.
– Describe a day in your life.
No two days are ever the same with me! There are some days where I have to do a lot of paperwork for inventory and stock levels tracking. I could also be working on posts for our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Some days I’m planning recipes and shooting them for our social media pages. I also do my own production in an incubator in NYC, so I could be getting the ingredients for any and or all of our sauces and then actually getting my team together to work on the actual production of the sauces: cutting, cleaning, blending, cooking, and bottling. Other times, I am meeting with bloggers or writers. I also do deliveries to the stores that order my spices and sauces and sometimes I do actual in-store demos and tastings to show customers how to use the products.
– What would you tell someone who dreams of starting a food business?
I would tell them to go for it. Honestly, no good thing will come easy. I won’t lie and say Essiespice hasn’t been the most challenging project of my life. It has tested everything in my life: patience, courage, endurance… that’s what you have to get ready for.
You will most definitely have to develop a thick skin and unless you have a lot of savings or investment from the start, you’ll have to get dirty and be a jack of all trades. Once you decide this is what you want to do, there’s a lot of research that has to be done with certifications and food safety so that is something to be mindful of and also you have to make up your mind that you’re in it to succeed so nothing will deter you. Because a lot of things will come at you and you have to stand firm.
– What’s next for you?
I’m getting ready to launch a Crowdfunding Campaign for Essiespice in the next 6 weeks. We need to raise money to keep Essiespice running smoothly into a stable and viable business that supports women entrepreneurs. We will also use part of the funds raised to research and create new product lines and introduce auxiliary products Made in Ghana to the US and world market.
This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.