Tony Reed is the longest-standing employee at Spokane-based Spiceology Inc., the fast-growing spice and rub manufacturer.
The 34-year-old executive director of culinary innovation uses his formal chef training to help develop new spice blends, including his first creation, the Korean BBQ rub, which will soon be on the shelves at Costco stores, he says. He is also responsible for Spiceology’s products appearing on nationally-televised shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef, Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and Next Level Chef.
While he gives some credit to the aesthetically pleasing labels, Spiceology CEO Darby McLean says Reed’s ability to connect with people has led to the TV arrangements.
“He has a unique talent for fostering and developing relationships,” McLean says. “He’s very likeable, and I think that’s made our partners more willing to find creative solutions to work with a company that may be a little smaller, like Spiceology.”
Spiceology has now reached a point where it has to decline offers to appear in some TV shows, Reed says.
Among his most notable accomplishments during his roughly nine years at Spiceology was his creation of the company’s food service channel, which developed a line of products for restaurant kitchens, he says.
“I started a sales channel that we didn’t have,” says Reed. “It’s our number-one sales channel now.”
He also creates product content, like recipes and videos on the company’s website and social media pages, often from his own kitchen, he says.
“I create product for all channels, whether its direct-to-consumer, or retail grocery, or food service,” he says. “A lot of my work after creating a product is the education of a product.”
Reed’s culinary expertise has been a valuable asset for Spiceology, McLean says.
“He’s incredibly creative, helps with our innovation and new product selection, and figuring out what flavor trends we’re going to be bringing forward,” she says. “He’s got that trifecta of skills—the domain knowledge, the creativity, and the business acumen.”
When he’s not brokering product placement arrangements, creating content, or developing new spice blends, he’s often giving back to the Spokane culinary community, McLean says.
“Tony is helping with high school and college programs in the culinary arts as a mentor and a teacher, and I think that’s the very best thing someone can do—pay it forward like that and create the next generation of Rising Stars in our area,” says McLean.
A few years ago, Reed helped set up an apprenticeship program that allowed high school students to get credit toward becoming certified culinarians, which allows them to receive higher pay going into the workforce right out of high school, he says. He’s also been working for about seven years with ProStart, a high school program that teaches culinary skills to students as they prepare for a statewide competition.
“I try to mentor for about five months out of the year,” he says. “That’s something that I take a lot of pride in every year, and I get to work with the future chefs of our world.”
Reed grew up in Spokane and Richland, Washington. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 2007 before attending Inland Northwest Culinary Academy, at Spokane Community College.
After bouncing around from restaurant to restaurant, he wound up at Nudo Ramen, in downtown Spokane, where he was a general manager and chef. While there, Reed got married and decided to leave the restaurant industry, he says.
“I hated working the weekends and holidays and nights,” he says. “Most of my friends had 9 to 5 (jobs), and I wanted to pivot to that, but still stay in the food world.”
He was introduced to Spiceology founders Heather Scholten and Pete Taylor and eventually was hired as the startup’s director of operations at the age of 25. He was one of the company’s first four employees, he says.
Reed’s journey hasn’t been without challenges, he says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Spiceology’s food-service operations took a large hit, and the company had to pivot to focusing on consumers. The company had to lay off many of its employees.
Another challenge has been understanding how to continue to grow as a startup company, Reed says.
“It feels like we’ve been three or four different companies with the stages that we’ve taken over the years,” he says.
McLean, who nominated Reed as a Rising Star, says he is a great representation of what can come out of the Spokane business community.
“He’s just such a great example of someone who’s from our community who we’ve been able to invest in here in Spokane,” she says. “He’s homegrown. He loves the Spokane community.”
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