Photos by Katie Noble
A self-proclaimed nerd, Jennifer Wood started documenting the exact recipe and ratio of her Herd Nerd SPICE 10 years ago.
“I documented each tweak in a binder for over 10 years—how nerdy is that?” she laughs.
For that first decade, Jennifer and her husband, Brad Perriello, obsessed over the spice rub for their own consumption only. They both loved to cook and entertain—especially if it involved a barbecue. Soon, Wood found a welcome audience in her friends and family who came over and loved her spice rub.
Jennifer, who works part time for a digital media agency, felt each encouraging comment led her on this path.
“It became an itch, a burning, a feeling of intuition, that I had to start Herd Nerd SPICE,” she says. “Even now I feel like that this is not a job, but something more. It is hard work, and I am the only one doing it—finding new places to sell the spice, providing demos, making the mix, etc. … but somehow it never feels like hard work. I am always looking forward to it.”
Herd Nerd SPICE is not Jennifer’s first entrée into the food business. She and a friend used to run a food truck, For Crepe’s Sake, which was one of the first food trucks in Boston.
“It was around 20 years ago or so,” she recalls. “We would make and sell crepes at events around Boston, including the Head of the Charles. However, our truck and our business lasted less than one year. My friend got into an accident with the truck, and that ended that.”
She became more serious about Herd Nerd SPICE as a commercial business when she started to have repeat requests for the spice rub from friends.
In March 2017, Herd Nerd SPICE launched at two local gift shops: Davis Squared and Arlington Centered.
“It still feels incredible to go in and see my product for sale in Arlington Centered, where I have shopped for a long time. When they first placed a second order, I felt that I could really make this happen.”
Herd Nerd SPICE is now available at many local food and gift shops in the Boston area, including Savenor’s, Volante Farms and Black Ink. It comes in two varieties: Original and Hot. For the holidays, Herd Nerd will also be producing a limited “Burn” variety.
Herd Nerd has also become a listed ingredient on some menus, including the tuna ceviche at Hooked in Bow Market in Union Square and the pork dishes at Ritcey East in Watertown.
“It was so cool to be ordering something off a menu that I had made,” Jennifer says enthusiastically.
“I am also amazed when people come up to me at demos with their own recipes of how they use my spice. I had originally made the spice for meat, but I think my favorite way now is in an aioli on crab cakes. It is fun to hear what others are doing with it … and even to learn a new variation every now and then!”
Jennifer’s family has been very supportive of her endeavors.
“My husband is an entrepreneur. He ran a small medical device media firm that he has sold and now works for ... but he was clear that he didn’t want Herd Nerd to be his 24/7 obsession like it is for me. He will gladly provide the manpower—mixing the spice, carrying boxes to farmers markets and deliveries. My son is all sales and marketing. He sports his Herd Nerd T-shirt to demos and talks about how he likes to use the rub. People are seriously swayed by his enthusiasm, which is crazy and awesome because he is in fourth grade!”
Just as importantly, she describes the Boston food entrepreneurial network as part of her success.
“When I first got started, I had coffee with another female food entrepreneur, who really helped me with both guidance and encouragement. I am still so thankful for all these food entrepreneurs, many of them woman, who have bolstered me and Herd Nerd. The loneliness that can exist is probably the hardest aspect that I have had to overcome. It is not the typical office environment with colleagues, but I have been lucky in being able to create many friends in this space and hope to extend this network.”
However, for as nerdy and analytical as Jennifer has been with her spice mix, she was disappointed to learn that she could not list “love” as an ingredient. But it really is a key component as she mixes small batches of 50 to 100 tins at a time. What else could make hard work feel otherwise?
Herd Nerd SPICE Aioli
A great accompaniment to crab cakes, burgers and as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries. Customers also love having this aioli with Herd Nerd potato chips: Simply put 1–2 tablespoons of Herd Nerd SPICE into a bag of good kettle chips and shake until the chips are lightly coated.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Herd Nerd SPICE
2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before use.
Herd Nerd SPICE Bloody Mary
4 ounces vodka
1 cup tomato juice
1 inch horseradish, chopped, or 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes hot sauce
juice from 1 lime
juice from 2 lemons
1 dash Herd Nerd SPICE
1 dash each black pepper and sea salt
Rim glasses with Herd Nerd SPICE. Combine all ingredients and serve.
Broiled (or grilled) salmon (you can also use on shrimp or scallops)
2 salmon filets or steaks, approximately ½ pound each
1–2 tablespoons Herd Nerd SPICE
Lightly sprinkle 1–2 tablespoons of Herd Nerd SPICE on salmon and grill or broil until cooked to at least 135°F.
Get more recipes here: herdnerdspice.com/recipes
This story appeared in the Winter 2019 issue.
NAZ SIOSHANSI lives with her husband and two daughters in the Boston suburbs, where she is always trying new restaurants and recipes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.