A few years ago, Anne Milneck did what few married mothers of young children make time for—she pursued a lifelong dream. Cooking had been her personal passion, but it had been eclipsed by a career in marketing and by taking care of kids then in first and third grades. That passion resurfaced one day when Anne’s husband Greg asked her what she most wanted to do. She answered without hesitation.
“I said I wanted to go to culinary school,” she recalls. “I’d always wanted to.” Her husband was on board, so Milneck immediately enrolled at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University. She began commuting three days a week between Baton Rouge and Thibodaux, learning the fine points of cooking from Folse, his team of chef-instructors, and guest chefs and food personalities who included New Orleans Chef Frank Brigtsen and food writer and author Marcelle Bienvenu. Milneck graduated in 2010.
With her children still at home, Milneck launched a small catering business called the Lunch Lady. It specialized in gourmet boxed lunches that sales representatives could bring to clients. Then, earlier this year, the opportunity emerged to buy one of her favorite businesses, the Red Stick Spice Co., a purveyor of diverse, high-quality spices, teas and oils and vinegars. Milneck put the Lunch Lady on hold and is now using her culinary background to help the store’s customers integrate an endless list of spices and blends into their ?everyday culinary repertoires. She says one of the most appealing features of the store is its ability to provide the exact amount of a spice that a customer wants.
“We’ve all been stuck with spices we’ve only used once,” she says. “This way, you can buy exactly what you need and see if you like it.”
Milneck caters to opinionated foodies on the hunt for the latest culinary trend, as well as busy parents looking for a way to add a new dimension to the rushed family meal.
“What has struck me about this store is that I can have a chef come in and buy something completely unusual, and then I can have a mom looking for solutions to weeknight dinners,” she says. “I can offer something to both of them.”
Since she bought the store, Milneck has added more spice mixes, including a few she combines on site. Her Bayou Lafourche blend—an ode to culinary school—combines bay leaf and filé along with salt, garlic and onion powder and other dry spices. She also prepares the classic French herb blends, herbes du Provence, bouquet garnis and fines herbes. She has increased the number of chili offerings for fans of spicy food, and she has a revolving list of barbecue rubs that complement seasonal foods. This time of year, she’s got plenty of options to suit fish and shrimp.
Red Stick Spice Co. already had a reputation for sourcing award-winning loose teas, and Milneck has added to the inventory with about 15 new varieties. She has continued the store’s stellar oil and vinegar offerings, which include high-end extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils, avocado oil (which you can read more about on the next page), pecan oil and several flavored vinegars, most from small family farms in California. She is also looking to add more organic spice offerings as they come available.
Milneck, who has a journalism degree, has retooled the company’s website to include friendly discussions and dozens of original recipes, from her Earl Grey simple syrup to caprese salad with balsamic reduction. “The goal,” she says, “is to have at least one recipe on the website for every item in the store.”