Fifteen years ago, Till Grob believed he could make a better spice rub than some guy in some cooking magazine. He was right.
With more than 25 years in the food and beverage industry, Till knows what tastes good. He also knows how to take risks and how to have fun. Adventure and Till are synonymous. With his beard blowing in the breeze, Till and his motorcycle can be seen meandering around his suburban Chicago neighborhood. His favorite ride? A jaunt through the Swiss Alps or a cruise around Lake Michigan (the only criteria for that ride: he must be as close to the water as possible).
A Swiss native, Till learned from his family how to be adventurous in the kitchen. In post-war West Berlin, his mother and grandmother cooked with ingenuity using what was available. Their style was hearty and comforting, and eating their food was like a hug from your grandmother. Potatoes, braised meats and sauces: his mother cooked two full meals a day, lunch and dinner. Mid-day, every day, his father would come home to eat with the family. House meal rules included trying at least one bite of everything on your plate. Whether intentional or not, dinner-time rules shaped Till into a fearless eater and a fearless cook.
As young as five, Till knew he wanted to be around food. While other little boys wanted to be cowboys when they grew up, Till wanted to be a butcher. Like the women in his family, he was drawn to the kitchen. The men in his family are men of science. All doctors, surgeons or chemists, healing people with their hands and their minds. Although not a man of medicine, Till’s a man of science in his own right. His science set? The refrigerator, the pantry, the spice rack. Smelling each ingredient, he determines what and how much to add. A key rule to cooking according to Till: “Follow your nose!” Doing so allows him to create his own elixirs that feed people and inspire.
Try it On
Fifteen years ago, Till fed friends at a cookout. He used his own spice rub. A spice rub inspired by some guy in some cooking magazine. And not some, but all, the guests thought the rub was a success. Friends came to rely on having Till’s spice rub at get-togethers. They asked for their own bottles. They encouraged him to sell it. Inspired to ingenuity themselves, they put it on food other than meat. They tried it on scrambled eggs, roasted pumpkin seed and potatoes. It was becoming ubiquitous. It was an all-purpose spice.
When you taste Till’s rub, his sense of adventure is ever-present on your palette. Spices from around the globe combine to create a blend that’s memorable and universal. Following trends is exciting, but not always practical. Till doesn’t believe in trends. He believes in flavor. While other chefs, myself included, buzz about the newest African spice to hit the shelves and how it will set the world ablaze, Till is concerned with perfection. He knows he has it and won’t compromise it. Staying true to himself and his rubs, Till doesn’t tinker just to tinker.
As a man who knows what tastes good, Till knows he likes spicy flavors, and his rub reflects that. For some, the spice level was too much, and for others, the spice level was not enough. To accommodate his friends’ requests, Till tinkered with the heat level and created two more versions of his secret recipe: one more mild and the other full of heat.
“Timing was never right. I either had the money and didn’t have the time or had the time and didn’t have the money. Finally, the time and the money were right.” – Till
A leap of faith and his next adventure began. With a small cult following, Till took the plunge and created Till’s Tastes, his own spice empire. From his kitchen to a commercial space, Till is slowly building a name for himself in the spice and culinary world.
Three blends, Tame, Sassy and Fierce, can be used interchangeably. Built on the same flavor backbone, each differs only in heat. When asked to choose his favorite rub, Till couldn’t answer. It was too much like choosing a favorite child (of which he has two). Sassy, the original rub, is the most versatile in his opinion. The blends all serve their own purposes and the blend you choose should match the dish you’re cooking.
Till’s favorite thing to put it on? Roasted asparagus. Sorry carnivores. While Till loves meat and heartily acknowledges his rubs are good, no, great, on meat, the flavor it brings to vegetables is stellar.
Till wouldn’t tell me what’s in the rubs. He could tell me, but then he’d have to kill me. I think he’s kidding. With my life safely intact and the spice recipe safely behind lock and key, Till’s looking forward to creating new products with his rubs. Keep an eye out for Till’s Tastes spiced nuts or ketchup, or maybe even beer.
Enjoy Till’s Tastes spice rubs now. Get yourself a tin and try some on:
- Hummus – add a teaspoon or two to store-bought or homemade plain hummus
- Deviled Eggs – add it to the yolk mixture and sprinkle it on top
- Grilled Fish or chicken or pork or beef or lamb or shellfish (really anything) – add before grilling or marinate the meat in the spices a few hours in advance
- Bloody Mary – mix it into the tomato juice and rim your glass (a personal favorite of mine)
- Roasted Asparagus – add it to asparagus along with some oil olive and roast, baby, roast
No matter how you use his spice rubs, Till’s advice in the kitchen is to be brave, be excited (people can taste it in your food if you’re not) and don’t be afraid to fail. In Till’s opinion, “Failure makes you a better cook. You’ll know what not to do next time.” Oh, and, get yourself a cast iron pan!