The Life of Spice

A Spice Weekend at The Ballantyne with Chef Garrett Merck

Events, News | |

Later this month The Ballantyne will be hosting Chef Lior for a Spice Weekend, where he will work together with Chef Garrett Merck to produce a Dinner Under the Stars. In this month’s interview Chef Garrett answers our questions about the event, the hotel, and himself.

photo by Ray Sepesy

Thank you Garrett for taking the time to speak with us, we’re very excited about this upcoming Spice Weekend, can you tell us a bit more about the meal you are planning?

We’re planning a beautiful dinner under the stars. It’ll be a three-course meal featuring fresh and in season ingredients, and of course, spices. I don’t want to give too much away but I can say we are very excited about the dessert Lior is working on.


Frédéric Panaïotis, Chef de Caves for Ruinart Champagne

News | |

This month we sit down with Frédéric Panaïotis, Chef de Caves for Ruinart Champagne and our collaborator on the new 1764 spice blend, specially crafted to create dishes to pair with Ruinart’s rosé champagne.

We’re very excited about the 1764 spice collaboration, commemorating the date of the first rosé champagne produced by Ruinart, and would love to hear more from you about the project and about yourself

I have always admired Lior’s marvelous spice concoctions, so was really excited when we decided to work together on a Ruinart blend. I have been the Ruinart Chef de Caves for over 11 years and have a particular fondness for our rosé. It is a truly festive champagne that can be enjoyed year round. Creating a spice that would elevate and transform dishes that pair with the Ruinart Rosé no matter the season was a natural for us. I love to experiment in the kitchen and am so happy we can encourage clients to do the same with the Ruinart 1764 blend.


Blue Stripes by Oded Brenner

News | |

This month we sit down with Oded Brenner to talk about his new venture, Blue Stripes Cacao Shop, and the spices we did together that elevate his cacao drinks.

Thanks for taking the time Oded, we’re excited to collaborate with you and would love to learn more about your concept and vision. Notably you’ve opened a cacao and not a chocolate shop, can you explain the difference?

The name says it all, we are the first cacao shop that showcases the entire cacao fruit. We create a new experience by using the raw pulp of the cacao fruit. Lightly textured and sweet, we use it to make energy drinks and bowls. We also take cacao beans from different single origins and grind them fresh on the spot using a unique grinder that creates a smooth paste. We cook this with water, condensed milk, and spices, creating our ultimate version of hot chocolate.


Spice Spice Baby w/ Kanchan Koya

Inspiration, Recipes | |

This month we sit down with Kanchan Koya, founder of Spice Spice Baby, an online platform dedicated to sharing the health benefits of spices and making those benefits accessible through easy to follow and delicious recipes.

Spice spice baby | Photography by Wayne Wong with Evoke Eternity (

Thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with us, we focus on the culinary side of spices, so it’s nice to hear from someone who can speak to the nutritional side. You have a background in Molecular Biology, how did this inform the approach that you took to cooking and nutrition? What is something you discovered that surprised and delighted you?

During my PhD in molecular cancer biology, I learned first hand that our bodies have an innate capacity to heal and repair themselves if we just provide them with the right nourishment. It’s truly not rocket science. The evidence tells us that if we eat whole, unprocessed foods and limit the ‘junk’, our bodies will take care of the rest (good quality sleep, movement, and social interaction help too!). So my approach to cooking and nutrition is quite simple – loads of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, good fats like olive oil, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised, high quality meats, and so on. And of course, SPICES, thanks to their wide ranging benefits like blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory effects, anti-oxidant powers, brain health-boosting properties, and so on and so forth – are powerful tools to aid these natural healing processes, while also serving as mega flavour-enhancers! So they go into pretty much every meal I whip up.

What has surprised and delighted me is how genuinely delicious healthy food can be! I don’t believe in banning the ‘junk’ foods so we do enjoy them on occasion in a celebratory and unapologetic way, but what is quite fascinating is how eating a real, unprocessed food-based diet literally changes your preferences so you crave less of those ‘treat’ foods. It’s truly a lifestyle of abundance rather than deprivation.