Yarmouth chef believes she has recipes for success

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YARMOUTH — Shannon Morris’ passions are cooking and traveling, and she recently figured out how to combine the two without leaving her kitchen.

Morris launched Spiced Pantry last November. Each month she sends a box of recipes and dry ingredients to subscribers, with each month featuring recipes from a different country.

“There’s been a resurgence in home cooking, and more and more people have been interested in exploring global flavors, but they don’t know how to start,” Morris said.

Morris gets her ingredients from importers, packages them, and sends them to subscribers, which now number about 100. Other ingredients needed for each meal can be bought at any grocery store.

Each box contains recipes and the specialty ingredients for four meals, each of which will feed four to five people.

“I provide what can’t be found at your ordinary grocery stores,” she said. “I provide the hard-to-find, specialized stuff.”

The desire to start her business came to Morris after she had a baby nine months ago and realized she wanted to work from home.

“I’ve had a real desire to create or find a career where I could be my own boss,” she said.

The boxes cost $19 per month. Subscriptions can be purchased month-to-month, or as gifts of three- or six-month subscriptions.

Morris said Spiced Pantry evolved because she missed the foods she had while living and working in Europe and Asia.

“I was trying to recreate flavors I’d tasted abroad,” she said.

Between her travel experience, a master’s degree in international relations, and a love of cooking, she knew she had the expertise to start Spiced Pantry. And with the rise in popularity of subscription meal kit services like Blue Apron and Plated, Morris knew there was a market.

“I think it’s the ease and convenience of it” that attracts customers, she said. “Plus, it’s fun to receive a little surprise in the mail each month.”

For the first month, Morris used recipes from Lebanon.

“It was a good fit for the first box because it’s a healthy cuisine and it’s accessible,” she said.

Spiced Pantry has also featured Spain and India, and this month did recipes from Shanghai, China, where Morris briefly lived.

“When I got back from Shanghai I wanted to cook the country’s food, but it was hard to find authentic ingredients,” she said.

Next month’s box will have recipes and ingredients from Greece.

“I try to do what I think my subscribers would like,” Morris said.

Morris creates her own recipes by reading, studying and tweaking others.

“I read cookbooks like novels,” she said.

All of the dishes are cooked and vetted by Morris before the recipes are shared. Morris said she needs to make sure the meals are easy to replicate and taste good.

For now she runs Spiced Pantry by herself, but would like to hire someone in the future to help with marketing and customer relations. She said promoting her business has been the hardest part.

“Starting an e-commerce business is tough, because you need to figure out how to market yourself from nothing,” she said.

At the same time, though, Morris said it’s been fun.

“I like being a small business owner and thinking about business strategies,” she said.

So far, most of Morris’ subscribers aren’t in Maine. The subscriber who lives the farthest away is from Hawaii.

In a rural state like Maine, Morris said, Spiced Pantry is a great way to explore new places.

“It’s an easy way for (people) to experience new cultures through cooking,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Shannon Morris of Yarmouth, owner of the recipe subscription service Spiced Pantry, makes souvlaki chicken on Monday as she tests recipes for delivery next month.

Spiced Pantry sends subscribers a box of recipes and dry ingredients from around the world each month; this month’s recipes are from Shanghai, China.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.