In this episode we have a conversation with Jim Hunger. Owner of Belly Rub Spice Rubs. Jim and Scott discuss how Jim has grown his business by using local farmers markets to spread awareness about his spice rubs.
Additionally we discuss Seattle area music venues, Seattle area food and drink options and more.
If you want to check out Belly Rub Spice Rubs you can visit Jim's website here.
This is a conversation between two long time friends so we do get a bit off the rails.
If you want other great ideas of places to visit, or to find out more about people who are making amazing things in Washington State you can visit Explore Washington State.
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You can find all of our podcast episodes on our Exploring Washington State Podcast Page.
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Scott Cowan : Hey everybody, Scott Cowan here and I'm super excited today to have as a guest, my good friend, Jim hunger. Jim is the owner and chief spice ologists for belly rub products. Welcome to the show,
Jim Hunger : Jim. Hey, Scott. Glad to be here today.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, so Jim and I have known each other a long time. We first met when we were both working at Starbucks coffee. And we still talk all these years later. So I'm super excited to watch how his company has grown and developed and his products that he's selling throughout most of Washington. So Jim, why don't you tell us a little bit about belly rub spice row.
Jim Hunger : belly rub came about because I have been making the everything seasoning what has become the everything sees my, my, oh gee spice rub, if you will, all the time at home, started making it for friends and family because people who came over for dinner really loved it and it became birthday Christmas presents for a lot of people. People loved it so much that they kept telling me somehow I needed to get this out to the world. And three years ago, I was laid off from work. And about a year later I took on this idea. I am moving forward with it. It's a growing concern. And I love the fact that people love my spice blends and rubs.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, absolutely. AndYou know, like I, we talked before the, you know, been at your house for dinner before and and you typically we know your food never disappoints, let's put it that way. And it's always got something interesting and unique, not unique but interesting and different to it. It's simple. It's not pretentious, but oftentimes it's because of the seasonings that you're using on your on your on your food that you prepare. Soyou've got currently you've got everything seasoning, you've got coffee blend, or coffee. Yeah, coffee blend, coffee rub, coffee rub. And you have you're old and spicy. And at the time that we're recording this, you're just coming out with your Southwest blood. So you've got four blends. Now why did you pick these?Why'd you start with these?
Jim Hunger : Well, you know, it was as I said, the original one became the everything seasoning and really started out when I was a chef and I would make spice blends and rubs to use in my food where I was cooking professionally. I was a banquet chef back in 1979 at the Arizona Biltmore and we would do a lot of steaks and roasts. And we used a spice blend on those, you know, and it was this, it was the start of my interest in it. I then at home started making a spice blend that has become the everything seasoning and as I said before, and it's great on everything. I use it on my eggs, I roast with it, I braised with it. I grill with it. I use it in the smoker. And it's It really lends a great flavor to everything. But then I kind of went off on a tangent and my second variety was the coffee robe. And my friends and family all thought that was an odd place to go. But it's become my go to for burgers, and it's really a great seller. People come back for that one over and over. There's a local butcher shop, where I shop and where there, they're my best customer. And people come in and ask for the coffee. They specifically asked for the coffee rub. It's great on beef and pork, but it's also you know, I didn't think of it for chicken or fish, but you can add a pinch of brown sugar, and it's terrific on salmon as well. And then I went with the bold and spicy at the behest of my mother, she kept saying you need to do a spicy route. And she said people like spicy. Well, it's become a good seller as well. It's third behind the other two, but it's got enough eat chili head and it's not melt your face off so you can taste the food through it. My mother thinks it's the perfect amount of heat. I have a friend the first time he tasted it said this is heat with a purpose because you can taste the spices, the other spices in it, you can taste the food through it. And it gives us an opportunity to have a little bit of excitement there too.
Scott Cowan : Right I mean, not that. So I'm not a big fan of heat. My kids are both of my kids.No. and heat with a purpose works for me that's I mean, I've had it obviously, and heat with purposes a great apt description of that of that product. Because I don't want I don't want to like, cry my eyes out when I eat. I don't personally appreciate it but I do appreciate a little bit of heat. Like I'm a jalapeno guy that's about as hot as I can go. You know where my kids go? Where's it goes? peppers. Not gonna do that. Then the new one. Southwest. does that because you started your your professional chef career down in Arizona. I mean, where did Where did this come from?
Jim Hunger : A lot of tacos. You know, I'll just eat a lot of tacos. tacos are good. You know? It's kind of like when someone asks, What's your favorite food? It's like Well, duh, tacos.
Scott Cowan : Um, but no pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, tacos, pizza, tacos, tacos.
Jim Hunger : You know, I'm with you on the pizza as well. But You know, tacos, I can come home from work or from a long day out selling belly rub. And I don't feel much like cooking too much. So I throw some chicken thighs on the grill and wrap them in tortillas put some hot sauce on and I'm pretty happy guy. There you go. There you go. It's really hard to screw up stuff that you can wrap in a tortilla. chicken thighs. It's it's great on chicken bys. It's terrific on carne asada get some strip steak from the local carnie said Yeah, and I don't have the marinated anymore. You know, they have a liquid marinade that they put in the bag and I just get it straight now and use the Southwest blend on it. It It's really delicious if I do say so myself. It's got a depth from the addition of Cow unsweetened cocoa, you know directly powdered from the cow fruit and beans. It's got, it's based on what he he lays and it also has some Chipotle chili in it, and that gives it a bit of smoke and a little bit more heat. And then it's, it's got a touch of lime, so it's got a little citrus bite to it as well. It's, I'm pretty proud of it. I must say awesome.
Scott Cowan : So, because this is a show about Washington State and not about, about spice robes per se. One of the things you were doing last year and currently this year when we're recording this, you're not doing it and I believe we'll go back to it but currently you're not. You were doing farmers markets. Correct.
Jim Hunger : Yes. And so, you know, that's kind of becoming not becoming it is it is a thing. Farmers Markets are I think there's 160 some farmers markets throughout Washington State. I think my opinion is that farmers markets have been a an amazing launching pad for many small artists in style businesses, whether they be spice rubs or, you know, bakeries, coffee, we've seen coffee it you know, there's all sorts of products available. People side hustles You know, they're doing this on the weekends because they're passionate about it. And last year, you know, you were you were doing the Edmonds farmers market. I know that I think you were doing a couple other ones that you know, but not as regularly. What So, from from a from vendor standpoint. Why do you like farmers markets? What is it about a farmers market that was good for you? Farmers markets allow me to get my product out there because it allows me to engage with potential customers. I do sampling on on salted potato chips, because I, I can't really have anything hot out there without being prepared foods vendor and then I have to jump through all kinds of hoops. And this is a way for me to get that flavor profile into people's mouths so that they can understand Wow, this would be good on chicken or Wow, this would be good on fish. And it It allows me to see people a second and third time when I do markets consistently. Because they'll come back and say I tried this last week. I want to try the other two and this gives them that opportunity. I did Edmonds farmers market I did the Snohomish farmers market. This year I signed up to do Edmonds, and some Snohomish, Bothell and Puyallup. But I decided that without sampling, because we're in the middle of a pandemic, and there's no sampling, I thought that sampling. It was a big part of my sales and a big part of my engagement. Sales are good. Sales are good. But engagement is is. You know, I think very important for me to get my product out there. Being able to talk to people, tell them how to use it. Use different uses that people may not think about
Scott Cowan : Right i mean in for speaking of different uses, you know, one of the things very early on you told me that everything would be good on avocados. And my my initial reaction is no, no, no way. And I was completely wrong. It's I had an avocado the other day sprinkled it on. I mean it's it's absolutely a cool addition to an avocado. So I think you're right being able to educate and inspire people's usage of it that is important. So belly rubs currently in I don't know a couple of dozen retail outlets and like you mentioned earlier, you've got one meat market that you frequent and that I've been to and I've literally watched it fly off the shelves and I've literally watched you do food demos there and have people lined up and I've witnessed the the people appreciating it, you know, in real time. What's cool is that your your small business is helping other small businesses by, you know, providing them with another product for their for their meat market, if you will. Yes, a lot of these meat markets have lots and lots of other side products. We know that but how have you found it to work with other small businesses throughout Washington Are you are you seeing because you've been out lately I know we've talked to end up not doing more sales calls and you know, those businesses are also kind of in the same situation we all are in. So how's the market been? What have you seen in your travels?
Jim Hunger : You know, my focus has been on butcher shops and grill stores. And butcher shops are crazy busy. Every single one of them that I visit tells me that business is so good that they've had to cut some people off. places that do locker packed have all said they've stopped doing locker packs, because the demand was so high, or the pandemic. They haven't started up again, even though we've started to relax restrictions and people are getting out more people are still cooking at home. For the most part, I think that a lot of people are still staying home. And they're, they're using my rubs and they're buying lots of meat and they're buying grill so that they can continue to do that. Uh, you know, one of the things that that I stress a lot is that my seasonings are terrific on vegetables. Because I have people say, Oh, I don't eat any meat or I don't eat much meat. It's like, try it. You know? Put it on roasted potato grill asparagus with I did Bold and spicy rubbed green beans on the grill the other night and hit them with a touch of lemon afterwards and they were fantastic. I grow potatoes, I roast potatoes. You it takes the seasoning very well. And people love those roasted potatoes.
Scott Cowan : Well, and, you know, to tie this into the overarching theme of, of Washington State, you know, asparagus grown in the valley was I think it's just coming out of season now. I mean, it was definitely in season just recently. So you can use it on on our lot of our local produce. And it's a cool way of just keeping everything within within our area, if you will, kind of staying local, buying local, staying local, supporting our small businesses, which I'm a huge advocate for.
Jim Hunger : Absolutely, absolutely.
Scott Cowan : And so I think that's an that's kind of a A great byproduct of this is like, you know, you can use it on stuff from your own garden. And it's because it is great we use on asparagus here in our house all the time. And it's, it's a real, it's a real treat to be able to just keep keeping things local. It's that supporting small business whole thing right now. And I think it's I think it's really important that we, as consumers, have, we do have a choice and if we can make good conscious choices about where we're spending our dollars and who we're supporting. It can make a big, big difference in our communities to these small business owners. It's not easy to run a business I mean, it's it's not I think there's a misconception out there that you know, you make a ton of money when you run a business and and while that certainly can be possible in many cases, as we as we both know Jim is expensive.
Jim Hunger : I'm not making a lot of money.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, the expenses, the expenses can add up pretty darn quick. So I think that's awesome. And I think, you know, you go into grill shops and I that, to me is an interesting you know, I think I know one thing about buying spice rub in a grill shop. I know that maybe sounds stupid, but I wouldn't think about going to my local, you know, places sells grills and picking up a few jars of belly rub at the same time. So it's kind of cool that they're, that you're adding to their lines too. So, you know, you and I have known each other like I've referenced we've known each other a long time and we've gone out, we've had many meals together, we've had many nights out and all that. When so I'll put you on the spot where share some places that you found through the years that you think are under under known that's really great phrasing but you know, where's those hidden gems?
Jim Hunger : Well in Seattle, I love to go to King noodle. It in the international district. They do these. It's not like a Mongolian hotpot where you do the cooking yourself. What they do is they use a clay pot, they put rice in it, and then they top that rice with vegetables or meat or sometimes both. And then they could have a very high temperature and then bring it out to the table. It's delicious dish. I've had the duck there, I've had the Chinese sausage. And what they do is they layer that meat on top of the rice. And they put a half of a baby bok choy on top that cover the whole thing in foil and roasted a very high temperature. Bring it out to the table with a small container of sauce and you dump that sauce all over it. Eat the steamed about joy and then eat down through the rice. But at the bottom is the treat because that rice, it's brown and crusty in that bowl and you pour a little bit more of the sauce and scrape that out. And it's delicious. It's a hidden gem. Not many people know about it. And you can still even get in at lunchtime, where it's difficult to get in to a lot of places in the international district for lunch. I go to Jade garden with my friends for dim sum. My favorite places Pho Cyclo down on First Avenue in the Sodo district for a nice dinner or even lunch. My favorite places it'll Toronto, you know literally Yeah, it'll Toronto in Pioneer Square. It liveried waiters, white tablecloth, dining and Even at lunch, but lunch is much more affordable. Um, but it's a fancy place and the food is exquisite. Absolutely. And then, you know, I'm not much of a fast food guy, but I have to say I'm addicted to Popeye. So you throw that in I love Popeye's fried chicken.
Scott Cowan : And that's not a Washington state based business.
Jim Hunger : I know it's not a Washington based business. But I got I got a I got a Popeye's when I'm on the run. And, you know, that's my junk food of choice. And I know it's not Washington based but you know, I live in Washington, so I go to the the locations in Washington.
Scott Cowan : There you go. There you go. So
Jim Hunger : well, you know, it's, I like food and foods good. I'm gonna keep going. So, you know, junk food is part of everybody's life. Well Most people say 99% but but you know, I like to see I love Zeke's piece of pizza. You know, I'm a big fan of Zeke's pizza. I like Pagliacci as well on occasion. Zeke's is my favorite. But, you know and taco truck, you know, we talked about taco. And yes, taco trucks are fantastic. So, I've found some, some local, and, you know, I never know where they're going to be. But when they pop up at some place, in particular, and say they're going to be back sometimes I go back because I'm looking for.
Scott Cowan : Okay, so what type of taco is your go to
Jim Hunger : ? At home? It's usually chicken or carne asada. When I go out, it's usually carne asada or Chorizo So,
Scott Cowan : okay. All good choices, but I don't think there's a bad choice for a taco to be honest with you.
Jim Hunger : And like I said, It's hard to screw up something can wrap it tortilla. Right?
Scott Cowan : So to reference back we met at Starbucks at the mothership. We were both in Starbucks corporate office. Where's your go to coffee place in the Seattle area?
Jim Hunger : Oh, that's Hard. Hard to say. Um, you know, I'm still a fan of Starbucks. But it's it's not the best coffee out there. What was that place that we went? diva espresso that we really liked a lot.
Scott Cowan : We're diva espresso we've been to, I will say this. I'll circle back on the Starbucks thing. I do agree with you that it's lost some of its charm. But the roastery experience was was overwhelming. It was like going to Disneyland and Las Vegas all at once. And that was the best cup of coffee I've ever had. My life there that iced coffee we had that time which I'll go into it another another time for everybody. But, you know, nothing against Starbucks for that that that roastery is like Willy Wonka. I mean, if you if you're in the Seattle area or if you're in in there Well, since this is Washington if you're in the Seattle area, go go check out the Starbucks roastery. You said diva. That's a good one. Um, fundamental,
Jim Hunger : Fundamental. You know, they don't have a retail outlet. Right. One place that does serve fundamental is Mabels. I do go to labels often as well. Down in the Ballard crown Hill area. I took Scott to Mabels and they make a fine cup of coffee. It's a fun funky little place that spins vinyl for their music and nice pastries, a comfortable spot to just kick back. And so I'll give a plug in Maybe that's that's a good spot to go.
Scott Cowan : Yeah, the Mabels is a mables is a nice comfortable little coffee shop and with everything you said about it's accurate. That's, that's really good. So let's see, from a music standpoint because you're also a music guy. And unfortunately right now, you know, we're all listening to music at home, but when, when you can get out. Are there any, are there any local acts currently that you're kind of finding interesting? Or what about local to you know, Washington based Seattle based music venues?
Jim Hunger : Well, you know, I mostly go to shows at the tractor. That's the kind of music I like to listen to is the type that they feature. They have, they have rock and roll x. They have Americana acts, they have blues acts, they have recurring acts like the cash out the Johnny Cash tribute. They do a great job there. And there's a bar. They sometimes have seated shows seen Dave album valve in there in a seated show. Most the time it's you're standing up seeing shows and I've seen I've seen some of the best shows I've ever been to there. But I love the show box in Seattle. Not the Soto one so much but the one downtown at pike and First Avenue. It's a great venue. I've seen some terrific shows. They're not just music. I actually went to Lebowski fest there as well where you get to say every line in the movie with 700 of your closest friend. Ever everyone quote everyone quoting the movie all the way along, but they had musical acts to open up for the movie harmar superstar, and the effing Eagles I won't say it. But that comes from a line in the movie, you know where I was right? About he says not the Eagles, I hate the FN Eagle. So you know, it's, that was a fun show that you know, shows that they do multimedia type of things as well. But those are my two favorite spots to go. I've been to a number of other clubs, some clubs that have shown that have closed down. Unfortunately, the backstage is one that I saw a great hot tuna electric show there. Back when you can still smoke. And so the place was smoky and down in the basement and really, electric machine is is a loud band.
Scott Cowan : We were having a discussion the other day, and that was the venue I couldn't remember. And I texted one of our friends and I said, Hey, place in Ballard downstairs, and he comes back backstage.
Jim Hunger : Yeah,
Scott Cowan : I thought it was like, I was like the Ballard underground or somebody just wasn't clicking in my brain. I've seen some great shows. The backstage was a great place. I agree with you. The tractors have fun, smaller venue, you in a 200 of your closest friends are gonna be really close to each other for the you know, not right now. But we've gone to I mean, we saw the knitters there and when on election night when Eddie Vetter got up on stage, and we were you know, in the front you The front there for that.
Jim Hunger : Yeah, actually wasn't it? I hate to break you, but it wasn't election day. It was inauguration day when Obama was when Obama was inaugurated. So it was kind of a big celebration for a lot of people. And you know.
Scott Cowan : But see, I mean, you know, we were there, you know, Eddie Vetter you know, is just pops up on stage and there they go. And it's, it's, it's, I agree with you it's a it's one of my favorite venues throughout the throughout the area. Yeah, where else do you get to see Eddie Vetter on stage on a Tuesday night? You know, for 20 or 20 bucks. 20 bucks. Exactly. You know, and the shoebox in pike is is a great, great venue as well. There's no, I like the Paramount too, though.
Jim Hunger : Oh, yeah, the paramount. I've seen some great shows there too. You know, I go there for musicals. I go there for a music show. like Elvis Costello, String Cheese Incident terrific stuff. Terrific stuff.
Scott Cowan : And you know, the Neptune is also not a bad little venue, the Moore theater Mm hmm. You know, saddle saddle has an abundance of these smaller, intimate venues that a lot of up and coming. So more, we'll call them contemporary art. We're too old old farts here who are reminiscing about our glory days. But you know, there's a lot of contemporary artists coming up and they can play these venues on the way up. And then for artists that have longevity that don't necessarily going to sell out, you know, Key Arena or the, you know, the big arenas, they can, they can keep touring in these, these venues and the Paramount's a beautiful facility. It's absolutely jaw dropping with the restoration that they did Beautiful, beautiful building.
Jim Hunger : I've seen I've seen great acts there. It it's a lot of fun. Yeah, one of the problems with pandemic for me is my, one of my hobbies is live music. And so I don't get to go out and see the shows with my closest friend. You know, I have great friends that like to go to the shows, and we just don't have that opportunity at this point. The pandemic has affected us all. I don't know if it's, if it's affecting me in a negative way, as far as belly rub. But, you know, I think it may actually be even a positive for belly rub at this point because so many people are cooking at home. Not that there's really a positive thing about a pandemic, but people are cooking at home so it's working out for me. I think I'm happy about that.
Scott Cowan : One of the unintended consequences of, of this situation, this pandemic, is that it's forced us all to slow down, not by choice, he didn't have a choice. You can't, you can't go out. And so I think for a lot of us, we are looking for ways to recreate the things that we enjoy IE food, by learning how to take the time to find recipes that are within our abilities that we can emulate at our favorite places, like you said, you know, chicken thighs and a tortilla, wrap it in, you know, there's, there's your beginning of a taco. So tacos are not complicated, they're delicious. They're not you don't have to be a four star Michelin chef to prepare a delicious taco. And I think as we are forced to be more purposeful in what we're doing, or more focused you You're the spice rubs or something people want to try because it is going to give them some depth some some variety. So that's kind of you know, maybe, maybe a good byproduct is you're, you're buying people are buying it on Amazon. It's available on Amazon. So as we wrap this up, where if somebody is interested if they're, you know, they're still listening to this old guys reminisce about clubs in Seattle and restaurants and all of that. I don't know how you didn't, by the way, you how you skipped Dicks, I just don't know how you couldn't reference Dick's hamburgers in in in. I'm sorry, I just really!
Jim Hunger : well, you know, I do occasionally hit the Dicks in Edmonds, and the one on Capitol Hill and the one on Holman road. So, you know, Dick's has a place in my heart as well. I've lived in Seattle for a very long time. Now for 30 years now. And you know, dig Seattle institution isn't a Seattle institution. And so yeah, I occasionally treat myself to a Dick's. Yeah, I mean, just,
Scott Cowan : yeah, I mean,
Jim Hunger : the daily, the Dick's Deluxe, Deluxe Deluxe. It's the bill.
Scott Cowan : No better food and in my world and then going and standing in front of one of those locations and Dick's Deluxe fries and a chocolate shake. It's like, it's the perfect nightcap,
Jim Hunger : but they don't serve tacos.
Scott Cowan : Wow, that's true, but all right. All right. So now that we just went off the rails. If somebody would like to find out more about belly rub, and its various varieties, where can they find you?
Jim Hunger : Well, I'm from Marysville to Tacoma to Cle Elum. At this point, I'm working on West In Washington, I am heading north to see if I can get some locations further north for everyone. I'm headed to Bellingham Mount Vernon, Burlington in the next few days. And then I'm going to try to focus on the east side of the Puget Sound area and then start heading south on the I five corridor. So I'm expanding and you can also find it online. on Amazon. We're working towards an online store for our website so that I can fulfill orders that way as well. As I said it's growing we'll be able to fulfill your your spice needs are coming up. With new ways to enjoy it and post on the website occasionally. I'm even looking at a limited edition partnership with cured meat company that I've met through farmers markets and and holiday shows that sort of thing Bob blade at soft blade meet and I are talking about doing that. I won't be in the next few months but we think that we could come up with something together that would be a lot of fun and do a limited edition salami. So we're looking at new things and trying to figure out ways to expand.
Scott Cowan : I would also say that, if any listing has any recommendations of where the gym might be able to be, you know, somebody that's got a store that carries stuff that belly rub would be a good fit. And please contact us, let us know. You can also go find out more about belly, rub it, you know, belly rub products calm. And he's also on Instagram, Facebook, you know, things like that. So, wrap it up. Thank you. I this has been a lot of fun. You and I have known each other for a number of years. So this is this is super easy, you know, a conversation for us to have hopefully our audience has found something of enjoyment and humor. And yeah, so thank you folks for listening. Jim. Thanks. You got you. You get the final word.
Jim Hunger : Well, thank you Scott for having me on. This was a lot of fun. I didn't know what to expect. Never been on a podcast before. But you and I sometimes are on the phone for two hours at a time. So talking for a half was not difficult. And I can talk about belly rub all day long. If you haven't had an opportunity to try belly robe, I would love it if you would. And if you have had an opportunity to try it, and you make something delicious. That's my goal is for you to be able to make something delicious with my rubs and blends and so post them on Facebook, post them on our page on Facebook, post it to our page on Instagram. We love seeing those things, tag us. You know, let us know how you're using. I'd love to see that. Thanks very much.
Scott Cowan : Okay, I lied. You don't get the last word. It's me, everyone. Thank you so much for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode and that you listen to us again. Give Gemma follow on Instagram, Facebook, some some love. And we'll catch you on the next episode because remember, there's always more to explore
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