RIP Tom Spicer
Dallas restaurant community mourns loss of produce man Tom Spicer
UPDATE: There'll be a "Celebration of Life" party hosted by Spicer's son Erik Spicer, at the Stoneleigh P on Sunday March 8 at 4 pm. The event will be a pot-luck, with story-telling, live music, a Spiceman shrine and seeds party favors.
Dallas produce whiz Tom Spicer passed away in his home on March 2; he was 58. Garden Cafe chef Mark Wootton, who'd most recently offered a space for Spicer to do business at his East Dallas restaurant, confirmed that Spicer was found dead in his apartment by the police. The cause is still unknown.
According to Wootton, Spicer hadn't been feeling well off and on for the past few months.
Spicer was a colorful character who began selling boutique produce in the early '90s to restaurants such as York Street, long before "buying it local" became a popular thing. Food was in his family; his great-grandfather was a grower, and his sister, Susan, is the chef-owner of Bayona in New Orleans.
An enthusiastic forager, Spicer opened Spiceman's FM 1410 in 2007 as a storefront to offer to the public some of the produce finds he was selling wholesale to restaurants. During the course of his residence there, he hosted dinners and offered limited-edition items such as Texas-made olive oil. He also took over a patch of land nearby, where he did some produce growing of his own.
Spicer's shop was on Fitzhugh, next door to Urbano Cafe, owned by Kristen and Mitch Kauffman.
"Tom and I moved from New Orleans to Dallas around the same time nearly 30 years ago and I've known him pretty much all that time," Mitch says. "As friends and neighbors, we worked together on events and pulled together to improve our corner of Old East Dallas over the years. It's hard to believe he's gone. Kristen and I are sad about his passing. We wish his family, friends and many fans peace."
Spicer had an itinerant streak, and definitely wasn't made for a 9-to-5 job, but he knew the local growing scene from the ground up. I joined him once on a trip to central Texas with a couple of chefs to forage for mushrooms that had the group following him like Peter Pan on a hike through the woods. It ended with no mushrooms, but a picnic with wine and lots of silly fun.
Spicer would send out newsletter updates of the produce he had for sale that revealed his devilish sense of whimsy, with puns and stoner double entendres. He was also an accomplished musician who played bass, often as an after-dinner treat. He even created his own instrument called the kalim-bass, which you can see him play here.
Survivors include five sisters Doris, Diana, Tina, Alice, and Susan, brother Henry, his ex-wife Ann Spicer and his son Erik of Austin.