by Rosemary Wolf
Rebekah Gillette has loved to be in the kitchen since she was a little girl. She enjoyed throwing ingredients together in pots and pans to create something new. As she grew up, she became interested in more mature activities, like hosting dinner parties and preparing unique dishes.
In recent years, a new challenge appeared for restaurants to accommodate people with allergies. This presented an opportunity for Gillette to prepare food with the intention of satisfying people with allergies (for example: dairy and gluten) or preferences (for example: vegetarians and vegans). Her 10-piece spice kit, called “Taste the World,” offers a wide range of flavors. From Mediterranean Mermaid to Persian Princess, her spices derive from various parts of the globe to enhance homemade meals.
Gillette taught several cooking classes before she started her own business. Her students constantly told her, “I can’t cook, I don’t have time to cook, I don’t know how to cook, but I would like to know how.” Gillette noticed she needed to bridge the space between what people know, how much time they have and their food preferences. Her box of 10 spices allows people to “sprinkle in flavor” if they do not have the knowledge or expertise to add their own.
Gillette wants people to enjoy the food in their pantries and to have confidence in preparing their own dishes.
The largest challenge for Spices by Gillette is distribution. There is no access to manufacturers who can help package and label her products in Northeast Pennsylvania. She takes full responsibility in completing her professional obligations since she works by herself to market and make and account for her products.
Yoga helps Gillette maintain balance and focus throughout the course of her busy schedule.
“A business can take over your life, if you are not aware it can take over your life,” she said.
Her advice to other entrepreneurs is that you “can only do well in a business if you are doing well with your health.”
Gillette began her career in classical French cuisine training in the late 1990s at culinary school. She noted French cuisine “is delicious but not user friendly for the everyday person.” She always admired Ming Tsai, the host of a television show called “East Meets West,” a fusion of French and Asian cuisine. Ming Tsai was her inspiration because he used fresh, lively ingredients and showed her the various ways she could take her culinary career to the next level.
Gillette did an externship at the South Seas Resort in Captiva Island, Florida. Unfortunately, she fell down a flight of stairs and broke a bone in her foot. So instead of working as a chef, she was a babysitter for a family on vacation. She grew close to the children, and decided to host a dinner party for the family. After tasting her amazing food, they decided to hire her as their personal chef at their home in New York.
While working as a personal chef, she attended a Marine Corps ball, where she spoke to many officers. Gillette always wanted to serve her country and decided to join the military intelligence division. A marine officer influenced her to join the intelligence division so that “the army won’t use your body, just your mind.”
During her training as an intelligence officer, Gillette was stationed in Korea and discovered a new perspective on food. Food had always been something fun or creative for her, but in Korea, food was intentional.
“Food heals the body. Koreans think of food systematically: is it good for your yin or is it good for your yang,” she said.
Gillette decided to share her passion for food to improve the lives of others by starting her own spice business.
She works in her home kitchen to prepare amazing spices for salad dressings, soups, meats and more. Her purpose is to make people feel empowered. Cooking should not be something you dread; cooking should be exciting and satisfying.
For more information, visit byrebekah.com or the “Spices by Rebekah” Facebook page or call 570-936-9180.
Rosemary Wolf, a graduate student at The University of Scranton, is an intern with University of Scranton Women’s Entrepreneurship Center under the supervision of Donna Simpson, Consultant Manager.