THUNDER BAY -- Kate and Scott Shumka’s road to dusty fame started a few years ago with a seasoning blend Scott tweaked to perfection.
Friends who came over for dinner loved whatever they cooked with it and he occasionally gave the mix to friends. “You should sell this,” their friends said, but the couple just took it as a compliment and didn’t pursue it further.
The family had moved to the Edmonton area in 2006, but returned home to Thunder Bay two years ago and it was here that their signature herb and spice blend turned into a business. “I started selling it at work, and one thing led to another, and it just snowballed,” he explained.
It wasn’t long before the little jars of faintly pink dust started appearing on the shelves of local stores and currently, more than 15 stores carry Shumka products.
“Thai Kitchen was actually the first place that took us on,” Scott says. “They put in on their tables,” Kate adds. “That’s what actually got the ball rolling for going into retail.”
One of the reasons the couple came up with their own blend was because they always found commercially available mixes full of salt. “Ours is only 5 per cent sodium. But you go to a supermarket and read the ingredients and the first ingredient is salt. Salt is cheap. It’s just a filler. You don’t need salt to make food taste good,” Scott emphasizes.
The couple created the original dust for chicken.
“It’s blackened chicken; you need a cast iron skillet, a little olive oil, get a nice char on some boneless chicken thighs then turn the heat to low for 35 to 40 minutes. It’s to die for,” says Scott, and they soon released Superior Steak Spice, (a variation of Montreal Steak Spice) meant for red meat.
Their newest product is Moonlight Bay Dredge, which is a variation of the original dust with flour so that you can dredge anything you want in it and fry up in a pan. It’s great for fishermen; a package of dredge, some oil and a skillet are all you need to cook your catch to crispy perfection. Despite the flame in the logo (designed by Kate,) none of these are overwhelmingly spicy, but cooking it for longer will release more of the heat.
For now, Shumka Dust stays a home-based business. Together with their daughter Jordin, Kate and Scott mix, package and label the products in their own kitchen. A year after their soft launch, they have started expanding outside Thunder Bay, getting into Larry’s Baits in Kakabeka Falls and are in talks with other businesses.
Their fans have come up with some pretty creative uses for the dust; apple pie, popcorn and pineapple slices are some unusual examples. If you’ve come up with some new ways to use it, head to their Facebook page to share your ideas.