The Spice Tailor, aka Anjum Anand was in town for a brief pit stop whilst on tour in our fair Hogtown. When approached if I would like to interview her, it was a resounding f*ck yes! From watching her on her amazing BBC series to dog-earring her latest cookbook, and making gourmet ready-to-go meals using her line of food products dubbed The Spice Tailor, I was developing a bit of a fascination with her, I mean, damn, how does she do it? Instead of being envious, I checked my ego and offered to tour her around my favourite Toronto institution, St Lawrence Market. Turns out, brilliant! She hadn’t been there before!
Libby Roach- Tell us about your journey…how did you find your way into the food business?
Anjum Anand- When I got into the food industry, there was so many things to understand. I wanted to know as much as I could. I wanted to open this chain concept of Indian restaurants idea I had in my head, I had two partners, one was in college with me she was in finance, and she was Italian, so no Indian roots. The other was this English girl who had been in restaurants her whole life, FOH, so we came up with a plan, and then I got married. And I was so excited about the whole thing, and then my husband asked, do you want to have kids? And I said yes, of course I do at some point! And he said, well, know, be practical. You’ll be in the restaurant a lot. And I had friends who had parents who were restauranteurs, and they worked every night and weekend. They never took holiday. And you reflect, do I want this for my life? I want a restaurant because I love cooking. And the practicalities of owning a restaurant is that you’re cooking the same food again and again, so it’s not he experimental stuff that I love more. So I was writing this cookbook and traveling to India, I get to try regional food, and I immersed myself and had a lot of fun in my kitchen, and I felt like that all of a sudden that was a better route, so then I didn’t do it, and I don’t regret it. Now that I’m older I see restaurants for what they are, they seem more fun on the outside than they do on the inside. It’s very hard work, and that doesn’t scare me, but I love the freedom and freeness of being here, and doing cookbook tours with my product. I almost feel like I don’t need a restaurant, you can bring my product into your kitchen you don’t have to come to me.
I’m happy looking back on the fact that I didn’t. In England 1 in 10 restaurants succeed. It’s very capital intensive. The romance of the restaurant has gone out for me.
LR-You have to follow a critical path, how do you balance these choices with having a family?
AA-You never have it all, but on paper I guess you do. You have a business you love, and kids you love, but nothing is 100% though, sometimes the kids are slightly neglected and the business gets a ton of energy, or the business gets neglected and the kids get more energy, and your social life gets completely neglected. In reality, no one has it all. I feel very fortunate that my husband is my business partner. If you have a dream, don’t be afraid to find out where you’re strong and where you’re weak. And get people to bolster that weakness. Women are so smart and great at multitasking, but if you can find that partnership, everything is better. Be flexible. When I started The Spice Tailor, what I wanted was different from what I ended up with. And then we did market research and we learned a lot, some ideas where bang on, and others needed nurturing. The biggest problem with women is that we’re so hard on ourselves. If you look at men, they have no problems doing that, they surround themselves with people who are good what they do, and they’re fine with that. And women, maybe even subconsciously, feel they need to prove themselves somehow.
LR- Your partner in life is your partner in business- how does that look?
AA- He is an entrepreneur. He had his own business, and I kept telling him that I wanted to do this (ST) but I was so busy with cookbooks and TV. I hounded him for 18 months to help me, and he appeased me and got started. Six months in, and I went to a friend wondering how we were going to make it work, we didn’t want to get divorced with little ones. We learned very early on that I will work hard to get my stuff right, and he works hard on his end of things. It’s very easy in a marriage to get critical, so we stick to what we are good at. He’s interested in finance, I’m writing copy for cookbooks and working in the kitchen,. But now it’s been eight years and it’s great. It’s very supportive. I’m here now for this trip, and he’s there working and taking care of the kids. It’s for the greater good. And I trust him, I can bounce ideas off him and we know we’re on the same page. We might still get divorced, (laughing) but the business will survive, we need money for the lawyers!
LR-The Spice Tailor is in UK, Australia and Canada. Any plans on expansion to the US?
AA-Maybe at some point, but we are really focusing on Canada for now. We don’t have deep pockets so we can’t throw a million dollars at marketing, but it’s been slow but it’s coming. I always keep talking about moving here actually! We’ve only been here in the market for two years. Canada is just so huge, very regional. The distribution is hard. I’ve been coming for summer holidays for years now. We love it.
LR-Many people from the UK move here and never come back…
AA- It’s an easy move. London and Toronto are similar in so many ways. The only thing that scares me are the winters! Does it ever stop snowing?! If we didn’t’ have that, well…You never know!
Look for the whole delectable lineup of The Spice Tailor products in your local Longos, Sobeys, Loblaws and Co-op stores. I’m stocking up for simple and savoury meals up at the cottage and camping!
This interview may have been edited for length and clarity.