My Journey: Campus Chef to CEO
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Fresh food is the cornerstone of health, happiness and culture. It should always be an option for all people. This blog shares my journey through the business, ingredient, craft and technology experiences that make fresh food accessibility my life's work.
Growing up with a gifted gardener for a mother and an avid hunter for a father, I had a true connection with food. Second semester of my freshman year of college a life changing event sent me on a new path of self discovery that started by moving from New York to California.
As a twenty-year-old I was unsure of my direction when I arrived in San Francisco, ultimately I gravitated toward the familiar comfort of food. While attending the California Culinary Academy I worked at Aqua, Pebble Beach and Dolby corporate dining. These environments lent incredible insight on hospitality, refinement and culinary point of view.
The peak of my culinary career came at twenty-eight while working at UC Berkeley with summers at the Bohemian Grove. Both offered complete creative freedom with very liberal budgets. I had the good fortune of being able to hush the labor and food cost gnomes that live on the shoulder of every respectable chef. Pairing ingredients from the Pacific and NorCal farms with Napa and Sonoma wines is unparalleled. Most weeks I would prepare a multi course seasonal menu for one or two small gatherings. I was living the idealistic vision my younger self had conjured up in the early days of culinary school. It was the exact opposite of my high stress entrepreneurial ventures with food. For these reasons I loved every minute of those four years and gladly retired my clogs after leaving.
The adventure and true discovery are with the foragers, flora, farmers and fauna.
Curiosity has always been very demanding and even more rewarding for me, from rediscovering my own back yard to discovering the world beyond. On a family vacation, my daughter and I went for a morning swim. We chased down these Tupa crabs in a lagoon and found these sprouted coconuts. It wasn't until we opened them that we learned about the coconut flavored foam interior that develops after sprouting.
I spent summers on my uncle's dairy farm as a child, it was a very humbling. It would be an understatement to say I had trouble keeping pace with my younger cousins when the four a.m. chores started. I always feel heightened consciousness when walking with a farmer on their land.
I worked for Nino and Lauren in Parma, Italy for a week where they make parmigiano reggiano. Three hundred and sixty five days a year the farmer brought them milk to make the cheese in their two person operation. They were only able to take two days off in fifteen years in order to maintain production. One day Nino asked me to explain what
sushi was like, he had seen it on Food Network but never had the time to travel to the big city to try it. On my last day I drove four hours round trip to bring him sushi. He loved it!
My Burmese friend John invited me to join him on a trip to tour tea leaf and coffee bean plantations. Upon returning to the US I had the Burmese coffee beans professionally graded. They ranked amongst the highest quality in the world but had been virtually undiscovered due to political and economic circumstances.
At twenty-one (left) I started my first company right out of culinary school with a couple hundred bucks in hand. Within two years we had two corporate cafes and a couple dozen catering gigs every week. Hundred hour work weeks were the badge of honor and learning the hard way was the only way. The business lasted for seven years and solidified my love for being in growth minded food companies.
In the following ten years, I worked for several VC funded FoodTech companies as well as founding a food waste consultancy, a couple foodservice technology platforms, and a food startup incubator in San Francisco.
In 2012 I partnered with a cafe chain in San Francisco called Coffee Bar. It was a hotbed for tech startups. Founders like Kevin Systrom of Instagram and Jack Dorsey of Square were regulars working on their prototypes in the Mission cafe. Around 2014, FoodTech startups were starting to see venture capital dollars trickle in from Silicon Valley. I knew the antiquated world of food was due for some
shake up but I was not sure exactly how. My goal was to get one foot in tech so I could liaise the seeds of change. I spent three years with the Eat Club virtual cafe building the culinary R&D department and national supply chain from the ground up while the revenues grew by 10x. Sodexo invested $30m, and it was eventually acquired by Compass Group.
The second most impactful FoodTech experience I had was several years later working with Chowbotics and "Sally", the world's first fresh food vending robot. In my international business development role, I became familiar with the growing demand for high quality unattended fresh food retail in the US market. Chowbotics was later acquired by DoorDash.
As the pandemic took hold in early 2020 it was obvious that a mainstream solution was needed for the fresh food accessibility problem I had become so intimately familiar with during my time at Chowbotics. The pandemic afforded me the time to start on this new path. It was paramount for me to find a technology solution that would equally empower the fresh food creator as well as the consumer. I have always felt a deep sense of empathy for the sacrifices the craft demands.
After researching solutions on the global market, it was clear that Cryowerx in Singapore had the right product and leadership to partner with on opening FoodSpot in the US market.
Today our team at FoodSpot is delivering on our mission to democratize fresh food for American creators and consumers by removing the hurdles of traditional hours, costs and locations.