Montreal’s Mile End Spice Station is the number one place to pick up some flavours in the city. Open in Montreal since November 2009, the Spice Station brand was actually brought over from Los Angeles by owner Peter Bahlawanian. We spoke with Bahlawanian about his work, and one thing’s for certain — the man loves his spices.
Born in Montreal, Spice Station’s owner Peter Bahlawanian lived in California for 20 years before returning to his home city. Discovering and experimenting with spices has been a hobby for him all his life, so he opened two little spice shops in Los Angeles. Wanting to turn his hobby into a substantial business, Bahlawanian began researching his idea and looking for the best place to set up another shop. That’s when he decided to leave Los Angeles and expanded his business to Montreal.
Over the years, Bahlawanian has reached the point where he has almost 65 spice suppliers around the world. Every spice originates from its specific country of origin, and when his partners get them from harvesters they have the freshest product possible. “We have a variety of peppers and dry spices that are staples for our customers’ cooking, which became our main repertoire,” he says. In all, the shops currently have 250 different spices, which you can search through on their website.
The Spice Station’s products go far beyond basic spices; they also sell chiles, salts, sugars, teas and—most importantly—blends.
A selection of the shops’ blends are their own recipe, and Bahlawanian says creating their own formulas is almost like a labour of chemistry: “You put together measurements and different things and then come up with a concoction of elements.” So far, they sell 80 different blends that he’s created himself.
Bahlawanian has adored spices for most of his life; this may have originated from his youth, as he grew up with two grandmothers in the house who cooked all the time. When he was older, Bahlawanian’s interest grew and he began collecting spices everywhere he travelled.
“I enjoy tasting and smelling and connecting both senses together, so my passion relies on aromas and on how it tastes after I smell it: if I can tell what the taste will be by smelling it alone. I have a very good nose which helps me and I just enjoy talking about food and flavour.” For a man with such a deep love for enthralling the senses, owning a place like the Spice Station is only natural!
Photo essay by Charlotte Guirestante Ghomeshi.