2014 MARISSA GUGGIANA & TIA HARRISON
CO-FOUNDERS, THE BUTCHER'S GUILD
It’s hard to say what we love the most about the progress that has been made in food-related careers in the past handful of years. But the concept of community is a big part of what brings us joy in the present and hope for the future. We’re thrilled to be living in a world where there are so many butchers committed to changing the way we eat meat that they need their own guild. Thanks to Tia and Marissa for making it happen.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
MG (pictured above right): My family bought a meat plant and it suddenly became clear that my fantasy of being an expat Parisian playwright was far less relevant than the work at hand. I had already been working in food since I was 12, but it was a sideline to my passion for writing. I still consider writing to be my deepest commitment but it turns out that food has been the most meaningful expression of that commitment. And running a USDA-inspected meat plant was nothing if not great fodder!
TH (pictured above left): I knew I wanted to work in food when I was 12 years old. I used to watch cooking shows like The Urban Peasant, Biba’s Italian Kitchen and Great Chefs every day after school and try to re-create the recipes for my family. I loved cooking, I was excited about how much there was to learn and how much culture and diversity there was in food. I thought to myself ‘you can never learn everything there is to know about cooking and everyone needs to eat.’ I guess I figured I would never be bored, and always have job security.
How did you get your current good food job?
We made our job. We dreamed up The Butcher’s Guild in a collective whirl, and have been building it for four years. We both saw a need to create a sense of community and knowledge-sharing in this new generation of butchers who are trying to work within local food systems.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
MG: I grew up working in a family food distribution business, seeing the industrial side of food, and learning how food really gets to us by osmosis. On the other hand, I have an Italian-American family that believes in cooking and growing your own food and preserving food traditions and making meals a ceremonial expression of love. Those threads combine to make me an advocate for local food systems.
TH: I have always had a strong work ethic and that is a quality well suited to working in a kitchen (no joke). I also inherently have no fear, so when it comes to taking on a project or starting something new, I just go for it. I assume that if I want to do it I can. I will figure out the details as I go.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
MG: We created The Butcher’s Guild with no funding, wringing every bit of growth out with our effort and that of our members’ and friends. It is both a great privilege and very challenging to be an entrepreneur. There is endless possibility and endless responsibility. I think the fact that Tia and I understand that and experience it with The Butcher’s Guild makes us powerful advocates for our members, who are moving similar mountains.
TH: The hardest thing I have had to (and still have to deal with) is having a work / life balance. This industry wants everything you’ve got and IT WILL TAKE IT from you. When I was starting my businesses and building my career, I spent too much time away from my daughter and zero time having fun. I worked so much that I actually lost the ability to recognize that I needed more time for myself to develop healthy habits and hobbies outside of work. Working all the time became the norm, and after a while I was very unhappy. I have since learned where my priorities are, and found more balance now that I am older. I also have a hard time asking to be paid for my work. I still struggle with that.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
We absolutely need to change the food system from the bottom up right now to protect our health, our planet and our economy. If that isn’t high stakes opportunity, I don’t know what is. We must network and grow as good food professionals – support each other. By changing our diets and working together we can create a more diverse local food system.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
MG: All the intangible benefits from my work are already abundant.
TH: Time with my family.