Mark Andrew Gravel describes himself as an independent cook and designer: a dual role under which he’s been able to organize a variety of self-propelled and collaborative projects—everything from creating temporary restaurant happenings to producing a collage art food magazine.
As part of his work, he’s also collaborated with an assortment of amazing artists, musicians, chefs, farmers and foragers, from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse to Greenhorns. He’s the founder of Good Farm, a foraging collective that sources local ingredients for restaurateurs and chefs across the US. He also has just finished writing Kill The Recipe: a Cookbook and Visual Guidebook on the Basics of what he calls “Radical Beanmaking,” which will be released in October.
FDL caught up with Mark to find out more about his good food practices and his upcoming book…
Why can design make you a better cook?
My design approach is minimalist, and I feel this is very important for making good food as well. Beautiful design and beautiful food are both achieved with a sense of restraint and intention. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it best, “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” This focus is how design can make you a better cook.
How do you explain the “agrarian avant-garde” from where your Good Farm Movement began, initially as a blog?
I started Good Farm Movement to showcase and celebrate what I call the agrarian avant-garde, which are the forward thinking farmers, cooks, eaters, educators, activists, and artists reclaiming our land, our communities, and our health. I believe thought provoking visual art is a powerful means for examining the relationship between people and food in society, so I wanted to draw on the visually dynamic mediums of design, photography, film/video, painting and drawing as wellsprings of education and inspiration.
It seems like if yours began as a theoretical/experimental approach towards food that, with time, is evolving to something more practical…
My approach was definitely theoretical and experimental when I was starting out. I was interested in so many different areas of cooking and our food system that I wanted to explore everything without being constrained by traditional approaches. Eventually, my interests became more defined, and I saw how they could be applied to create tangible value. So, as I’ve progressed, my work has definitely evolved into something more practical.
There are quite many interesting names that you seem to have worked with. What does your freelance food work consist on?
My past freelance work has included finding really good local ingredients for chefs and event organizers, helping farms with their design and business strategies and catering for all sorts of occasions. Specifically, some past work has included catering for Cool Hunting and HBO parties, photo editing for the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary book and organizing rooftop happenings with Meatpaper magazine and SFMOMA.
Talking about art and food what makes an artist think that, when someone enjoys the food that they are served, they also understand the art behind it?
I personally don’t think they need to understand it. It’s about the sensory experience, so feeling is more important than understanding.
You’re about to launch Kill The Recipe and on the book’s blog, I read that “beans are culture”. What makes you say this?
Beans are one of the most biologically and culturally diverse foods available, and they have their place at the table all over the world. For me, they are one of the most simple and humble expressions of a culture’s place and people. That is why beans are culture.
Why should people read “Kill the Recipe”?
I believe beans will play a key role in the future of a healthy, accessible and affordable food system because they’re widely available, inexpensive and have vast social, economic and environmental benefits. I always say the book is about radical beanmaking because beans are rad when they’re made right. Kill the Recipe will show you how to make rad beans.
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