Article Published 12/6/2021 Voyage Raleigh Online Magazine Life & Work with Michel “Me-kell” McNeese
Today we’d like to introduce you to Michel “Me-kell” McNeese.
Hi Michel, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story? Some days, I am a spice blend mixologist, other days I’m a spice historian, and occasionally I am a researcher who is digging through medieval cookbooks looking for clues about how spices were used.
I am the owner of the Oak City Spice Blend company specializing in historical and modern spice blends. Spices, oils, honey, teas, and whole ingredients that are non-GMO, no/low sodium, and filler-free. I love what I have created and enjoyed sharing it with others.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect? I will be 60 in January. Starting a new business this late in life is very interesting. Social media, Covid, challenging myself. It has been a very interesting journey.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do? I love all things medieval, the older the better. In short, history is fascinating to me. I love researching recipes and having an understanding of what spices were available and how they were used.
For 30 years, I have had the pleasure of working with other enthusiasts recreating menus and feasts all with the hope of understanding what folks ate. I have collected all my notes from the past 30 years and created a spice blend business that I think is true to the original flavor profiles.
The tag line for Oak City Spice Blends is “a World of Flavor”. From India to Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, and of course the Americas. I have several modern blends as well which makes dinners tasty every day.
My goal is to help folks reconnect if they have missed a flavor profile or help them try something new.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success? Listening. I love going to the farmers’ markets and getting feedback on the spice blends folks have tried.
This past summer at the Raleigh International Food Festival I had a young lady smell the Jamaican spice blend. You could see it on her face the moment she smelled it. She turned to her friends and said “this smells like what my dad would cook for me when I was 12”.
Those moments when folks are about to reconnect with fond memories and pass them on to their friends, kids, etc. that mean everything to me.