Local chef opens organic spice shop in downtown

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

NATCHEZ — For Rick Simon it’s all about the nose.

And one step into Slick Rick’s Foods on North Pearl Street is all it takes to understand why.

The smells of garlic, chili power, paprika and other spices combine to fill the air in the organic spice shop owned by Simon and his mother, Mary Ann Simon.

Rick Simon said good organic ingredients make all the difference in cooking, even in seasonings. And, he said it’s a difference that can be smelled before it is tasted.

“Cooking is one of the only jobs where you can use all five of your senses,” Rick said. “As a chef, I smell everything, because you can tell what something is going to taste like by the way it smells.

“Organic foods just smell more pure.”

Slick Rick’s Foods offers seven organic spice blends and is in the process of developing at least five more.

Rick Simon said his desire to create a healthier seasoning option than those found commercially is what led him to marketing his personal spice blends.

“Probably seven or eight years ago I started working on a blend that wouldn’t mask the flavor of the meats and vegetables I was putting it on,” he said. “Seasonings are supposed to enhance flavors, not take over.”

From that process came the Red Spice, a versatile blend that he said can be used with equal success on meats and vegetables.

While the store in Natchez only opened recently, Slick Rick’s Food products are on shelves in 18 states and the Cayman Islands as part of their wholesale distribution.

Mary Ann Simon said when beginning this business venture with her son, she thought they would encounter a lot of different competition, but along the way she has been surprised at the lack of similar products.

“There was really nothing out there,” she said. “We are all organic and completely kosher, and that is a big deal.

“People are looking for organic products, but when it came to seasonings and spices, they were not able to find anything. We are hoping to fill that void.”

Rick Simon said recently there has been an influx of organic products on the market because the consumer base is becoming more particular about what they eat and use.

“What you put into your body is what you are going to get out of it,” he said. “I think there is an awareness now of healthy living that wasn’t around a few years back.

“People want to be around to see their kids grow up.”

Mary Ann Simon said her son has always had a health-conscious lifestyle so creating this line of products was just natural.

“He is the guy that wants to know what is in everything he is eating,” she said. “He played soccer and runs and is just very aware of making healthy decisions.”

The Simons next business steps include continuing to grow the wholesale side of the business with hopes of being sold by national food suppliers and also begin serving a to-go lunch out of the Natchez store.

“The menu will be Rick’s creations of soups, salads and sandwiches,” Mary Ann Simon said.

The shop is located at 109 N. Pearl St. and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Slick Rick’s Foods can be reached by calling 1-877-754-2576.

In addition to the Slick Rick spice blends, the store carries a variety of sea salts, cooking utensils and tools and T-shirts, caps and aprons made of eco-friendly materials, as well as gift baskets.