2017 MARK ANDREW GRAVEL
Mark’s story is deceivingly simple. He was working in the food world in a variety of ways, networking and making connections, and he realized that he could turn those connections – and his skills at making them – into a business. Mixplate is just that: a network that helps businesses connect with cooks, creatives and food professionals. But the insight and energy that Mark brings to his work goes much deeper, and his story includes wisdom that shouldn’t be overlooked.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I knew I wanted to work in food when I realized a career as a professional boogie boarder wasn’t in my cards. Food is my second love.
How did you get your current good food job?
I figured out what I was good at and organized something I could offer around that skill. I realized I was good at connecting – whether it was introducing people for collaborations or helping a food business find awesome people to work with. My current work naturally grew out of what I was already doing – helping connect people along with helping create opportunities for work and professional development.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I spent a lot of time working with mobile food operators, organizing food events, and hopping on a lot of gigs for restaurant catering work. I was fortunate to meet and work with a ton of talented people along the way. I learned a lot about improvising, adapting, collaboration, and teamwork. Also, how to operate and problem solve on the fly in constantly changing environments.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
Dealing with a consistently high level of uncertainty was/is definitely a constant struggle. Having absolute faith in yourself and your skills is important because not every day will be your best day. You have to cultivate your confidence and maintain your professionalism in spite of everything. I’ve definitely considered quitting under times of prolonged mental and physical exhaustion. I’ve found when it happens it’s time to reflect and ask yourself tough questions. Is the work worth it? What’s the goal? How do I regroup and push forward? How do I maintain better balance? At the end of the day, keeping your head up, owning your mistakes, humility, and hustling will get you where you want to be. But you absolutely must have faith in yourself.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
Don’t be afraid to meet people. That’s the main one.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
Collaboration. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table. There are a lot of changes happening around the economics of running a food business – especially labor. I think right now more than ever a cook can function as a business and not necessarily need to start their own venture or be a full-time employee if they don’t want to. A lot of businesses are always looking for extra help. Production and seasonality are constantly expanding and contracting the labor a business needs. As an individual, finding ways to connect with businesses that need your skills is a huge possibility now along with creating a more balanced work/personal life – not grinding yourself away at the expense of your health. Jitjatjo is a good example of a business helping facilitate this. I think some areas of food will move towards a mostly employee-free framework where businesses can tap communities of individuals providing services to help them get work done – everything from prep, production, etc. It could potentially alleviate a lot of the financial and time burdens (and piles of paperwork) that come along with constant hiring too. It won’t happen overnight, but I think it’s heading that way. It will definitely require building trust between the communities and businesses as well as showing up and doing a really good job.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Boogie boarding trips.