Behind the Scenes of our Summer Sailing Shoot


“Guys – the hatches are all closed, right?”

On a sailboat, there are plenty of good times to ask this question: say, right as you’re pushing off from the dock, leaving the marina, or even (if you like to live dangerously) as you’re sailing along on smooth seas. Really, if you think about it, there are only a couple of clearly wrong times to ask this question. The exact moment that some unexpected wake crashes across the bow of your boat? Yep, that’s one of them.

For those uninitiated, “hatch” is the nautical term for an opening in the deck of a ship – an opening which can of course be closed to keep people in and water out. On this particular afternoon, we would apparently forget this function.


Let’s back up to set the stage a bit. Four members of the Marx Foods crew – Matt, Ryan, Justin, and me – as well as a friend of the company, Saskia, had all come out to Shilshole Marina for a video shoot highlighting Silver Fern Farms Venison. From the marina, we hopped on a beautiful 36 foot sailboat, cruised down into Elliott Bay, and got some video footage with the Seattle skyline as our backdrop.


For the video crew, video shoot days mean tons and tons of work. The same goes for our actors, Justin and Saskia, though the work is a bit more relaxed and tends to include eating something delicious. As for me, well, a day like this is pretty much an excuse to hang out on a sailboat for a day and call it “working.”


I don’t have much experience with sailboats, so naturally I was designated the backup captain (probably just because I didn’t seem to be helping with anything else).  When the time came for Justin to concentrate on grilling, I took over as captain. My primary duty was to make sure we didn’t crash into something or, as Matt so eloquently put it, “Just try not to kill everyone on the boat.” I thought about responding with a quote from Captain Philips – “I am the captain now!” – but I decided against it since my poor passengers were probably in almost as much danger as Tom Hanks was at the time.


From there, I led us haphazardly around Elliott Bay for a couple hours, somehow managing to avoid the other boats in the bay.  We soaked up the sun, enjoyed some incredible venison, and savored the experience of “working” on a sailboat for a day. The time eventually came to call it a day, so Justin (back at the helm again, to the relief of our white-knuckled passengers) got us pointed back in the direction of the marina.

No more than five or ten minutes later, a boat sped across our path diagonally. At the time no one seemed to think anything of it – I can’t even recall what color it was – but in no time we found ourselves cruising headlong into the largest wake we had seen all day.


“Guys – the hatches are all closed, right?”

The answer to this question was, of course, no. So when the wake started slopping over the bow of the boat, gallons of it crashed straight through the open hatch and directly into the bedroom. Now, this was an overhead hatch we’re talking about (picture a 2’ by 2’ square skylight directly above the bed) so the water wasted no time pouring right in and getting comfortable on the bed.

When we had crested the last swell and the water had finished cascading through the hatch, Justin went down to survey the damage. The contents of the bedroom were completely soaked and the boat was doomed to smell like low tide for a week, but otherwise we came away relatively unscathed. Most importantly though, the accidental bedroom waterfall meant that my sloppy shift as captain wouldn’t be remembered!  In fact, I think it makes me a better captain than Justin, though this is up for some debate.


Looking back on this day, the fact that these had been our only challenges really puts things in perspective – we’re pretty lucky to get to have this kind of work day. Ok, if you add in the top notch venison and the super tasty recipes, expertly crafted by Kim Brauer and Becky Selengut, then it becomes clear that we’re just completely and totally spoiled. It’d take a lot more than my blundering shift as captain and some misplaced ocean water to mess a day like this up.

Reed Buchanan is the Marx Foods buyer and also helps coordinate the Service team. You can read more about him and his aversion to bok choy here.

Behind the Scenes of our Summer Camping Photoshoot

Recently our team headed out to the nearby Tolt-MacDonald Campground just outside of Seattle to set the scene for some fun camping photos and video content. We had a beautiful sunny day and some delicious food to grill up, including our grass-fed burgers as well as some sausages and hot dogs. I was extra excited and also a bit nervous because it was my first photography assignment for Marx Foods. Luckily the good company and gorgeous food gave me a lot of inspiration to work with and I could just enjoy taking photos.

The campground was one I hadn’t visited before and definitely one I want to go back to some weekend soon. They have yurts and traditional campsites as well as cabins, one of which is what we reserved as the backdrop for our shoot. I hear they also have lots of great trails around the campground which I’m looking forward to exploring at some point. We had to walk across a 500-foot long suspension bridge with all of our gear to get to our campsite, which initially sounded pretty daunting but turned out to be fun, plus full of great photo ops!

Pretend camping is almost as good as the real thing, and it was definitely a treat to get to spend the workday outside grilling delicious food. The food is the best part of camping anyway, if you ask me! It was also great to be a part of capturing the day in photos and working alongside Ryan and Matt.

We got the fire crackling and along with all of the meat we were cooking went some colorful baby bell peppers. There was also a quinoa salad with orange-parsley dressing and a refreshing carrot and fennel slaw, followed up with some simple grilled peaches for dessert. Needless to say we were all happily full at the end of that meal.

Thanks for checking out the details of on what went into this photoshoot!  We love creating visual content to go along with our delicious products and I hope we’ve inspired you to get outside and cook while our beautiful summer lasts here in the Pacific Northwest.

Annie Lalish calls and corresponds with our customers, helps keep the office running smoothly, and occasionally takes beautiful photographs for Marx Foods. You can read more about her here.

Behind the Scenes of our Summer Entertaining Photoshoot

A glimpse into what went on behind the scenes at our Summer Entertaining photoshoot… aka, that day we got to cook and eat a ton of delicious food at the beach.

It’s not every day that you get to call a charming beach-front house your office for the day. Especially when you live in Seattle. Fortunately for us, we got to do just that.

We set out from our office around noon, thrilled that the weather had decided to cooperate. It was sunny, 75 degrees, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Those of you from the Pacific Northwest know how much of a blessing that was- June around here is usually called “Junuary” as summer doesn’t usually show itself until the day after the Fourth of July.

When we arrived we couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was! Cozy & bright, it was full of nautical touches, which made all the more sense upon strolling down a long, winding flight of stairs that brought you directly to a lovely little beach on the Puget Sound.

After a little exploring, we set to work. While I arranged some farm fresh flowers into an assortment of tiny bouquets, Reid headed down to the beach to take some product shots, and Kim got set up in the kitchen, where she would proceed to cook an incredible meal under the careful watch of our camera crew.

You see, we weren’t just cooking that day- we were documenting the whole process! Even yours truly got in on the action and shot a short video talking about how to turn your favorite cocktail into a pitcher cocktail!

We were especially excited for Kim to get grilling. We just started carrying an incredible line of 100% grass-fed beef from New Zealand called Reserve. Not only is this amazing grass-fed beef- it’s the best of the best. The producers have scientifically quantified the best eating characteristics for grass-fed beef and ensured that every cut lives up to those standards. We couldn’t wait to try it, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

Throughout the day, we captured recipes step-by-step; shot how-to videos about grilling and entertaining; photographed delectable summer dishes; captured the special moments at the party; and yes, ate delicious food and sat on the beach when time allowed!

By the end of the day our feet were tired and our legs were sore, but our bellies were full of delicious food, and we were happy to have gathered a ton of great content in a gorgeous setting- all while showing our models a good time.

Lucky for us, the fun isn’t over! This was only the first of our photoshoot adventures for this Summer of Food! Next up? Camping!

Becca Lee wrangles our social media accounts, blogger contests, and general marketing work as the Marketing Coordinator for Marx Foods. You can check out one of her many hair colors and read more about her (and her ridiculous sweet tooth) here.

A Few Staffing Insights

Confirmation of three huge lessons all at once.

A new employee quit unexpectedly recently.  Just didn’t show up one morning.  Turns out that he was a fragile soul and couldn’t handle the pressure of tricky customer service situations.  I understand now in retrospect, but I sure wish that he would have come talk to me.  He was a good fit for our company and I could have made adjustments to keep him satisfied in his job.

The position is somewhat critical because part of it is to process all orders that came in overnight and need to ship out immediately via FedEx.  Because it is time sensitive and it starts at 7AM, it is important to have the job filled and filled with someone dependable.  So, to have an unexpected vacancy and no courtesy of two weeks notice definitely hurts.

In fact, I was really down about it when I got his email later that evening saying that he quit effective immediately.  It was stressful, not least because I had just finished hiring for three positions and hoped that I didn’t have to deal with interviewing for a few months.   I thought and thought about how to handle it until a light bulb went off.  The person who previously did his job had moved and was now in a new city unemployed and with an Internet connection.  A ha!  I called her up and asked if she wanted to work from home until we can figure out a permanent solution.  She was thrilled.  So was I, because not only was the work covered but she already knew exactly what to do.  No training required.

When I look back, there are three important business  lessons that have been confirmed over and over in my young career:

1. It Never Ends.  Running a business involves a persistent parade of new problems.  It takes years to develop a “just deal with it” attitude rather than get flustered.  It never ends.  And it never will.  The bigger the business gets, the bigger and more frequent the problems become.  The ability to overcome ever-growing obstacles is a key to success.

2. There is Always a Way Out.  Most often when a problem crops up there is a solution that leads to a better outcome.  This happens over and over.  No matter how bad the problem seems at first, almost invariably the solution puts you in a better position than you were before the problem started.

3. You Never Know When You Need Someone.  So Be Nice.  When the previous employee left, it would have been much easier for the employee and/or me to end on a bad note.  It is hard work sometimes to keep relationships respectful and friendly when they are ending and the presumption is you’ll never see each other again.  It is hard to finish strong.  I tried hard to keep it positive when the employee left.  So did she.  If we had been hostile to each other after she gave notice, I would never have been able to go to her for help.  We both treated each other respectfully and fairly.  And the result was an outcome that helped both of us.  She has some income.  I have a critical job covered.

Now I need to go wade through a hundred resumes.  Ahhh, it never ends.

Box Art By Garrett Marx

Because a lot of the meat sold on MarxFoods ships from our New Jersey facility, but is photographed here, we often get “care packages” of goodies to be used in photo shoots, recipe development, etc.

While boxes filled with New Zealand grass-fed beef are plenty exciting on their own, my brother Garrett has taken it upon himself to inject his signature style of humor. Each box destined for the Seattle office arrives covered with drawings and messages that leave little doubt as to who handed it to the FedEx guy.

We’ve decided to start memorializing Garrett’s artistry for the world to enjoy (and future inclusion in any eventual collections of his work in art galleries).

Here’s his latest:







Newark Shipping Crew

Retail signs are in!!

I am so excited that our retail signs are in. It’s more like a billboard on the side of the shop, with visibility a quarter mile down Elliott Ave! They still need to put in lights and raised letters and signs on the other two sides of the building … but the big sign is in and I am pumped!

Friends & Family Party was a Blast!!!

On Tuesday we officially christened the Marx Foods retail store with a Friends & Family party.  It was great to show everyone our new shop!

Outside Looking In:

Marx Foods Retail Store 1
Inside Looking Out:

Marx Foods Retail Store 2
Justin Marx
Of course, we aren’t just starting a new retail endeavor, we’re launching about a hundred new products!  We had 35-40 of them out for people to try.  Here are some of our new caramels, jams and spreads.

Marx Foods Opening Party

The pistachio cream appeared to be a universal favorite….people kept tasting it again and again;)

Our new hot sauces collection generated a lot of discussion as people argued over which one they liked best.  Each of the four we had open offered very different flavor profiles, so there was something for everyone.

Marx Foods Hot Sauces

To make sure nobody went thirsty, Katie mixed up three signature cocktails featuring tart cherry grenadine, elderflower syrup, and yuzu juice, plus fresh sodas using our new lovage syrup, sarsaparilla syrup & hibiscus syrup.

Cocktail Mixers

Come check us out at 144 Western Ave W.  We’re open 11-7 weekdays and 10-3 on Saturdays.

Our Seattle Shop’s Food Art

Our retail roots are online, so our Seattle retail concept was dreamed through a digital lens.  It’s being implemented that way too.  Our retail shop will have a home page and a masthead and interactivity.

In that spirit, we endeavored: to leverage all of the content we have built over 5 years; to integrate technology in a useful (and hopefully not gratuitous) way to enhance the shopping experience; and to bring visual fluidity into a typically unchanging retail environment.

We can change our website design at our whim, but how do we incorporate change and changing art into our physical retail shop?  How do we showcase the artists that we have right here where our retail shop will be?

Stretching across the top of the shop walls is a masthead composed of big chalkboards.  It will be a place to create changing seasonal and contextual food art.  Ryan came up with our original concept: a seasonal timeline that stretches from now until the Spring… and then we’ll pull it down and design another chalk mural soon after the New Year.    Matt has been working on it for about a week, it’s about half way done, and it is coming out beautifully!!!

Check it out!  More on our digital integration later…

Summer Company Picnic 2012

A winter holiday party isn’t enough for us.  My staff is so awesome (and we’ve recently had a lot of reasons to celebrate), that a summer picnic was in order. This year, I went all out with an epic feast and a day of games, boating and day-drunkery.

Even though the weather wasn’t quite as hot as expected, we made quite a few boating excursions in my Hobie 16, powerboat and other water toys.  Tara and Nyoki played search and rescue operator for all those who got pushed too far when the wind was high or got caught out sailing when the wind finally died.

Veronica and Diana both tried paddle-boarding and Katie & Adam ran off the dock to go swimming.   The water really isn’t that cold … especially when you’ve got a strong buzz going and a hot tub to retreat to.

We had some games and activities to get everyone in the party mood. Croquet was first on the docket. Katie & Katy were paired up and trying to strategize how to beat reigning champs Matthew & Diana, but to no avail – those two won yet again!

Here’s the proud 2nd consecutive croquet champs.

It didn’t matter though, everyone still had a great time, as proven by Katy’s uber-happy face.  I might not have been a croquet champ, but I gleefully took the only two oyster virgins at the party: Tory & Adam!!!!

Hey look, it’s Captain Whiskey hanging out with some of the ladies and, um, a stiff cocktail.

The food was divine. Heaven, really. Tons of fresh fruit from the U-District farmers’ market and lots of pre-meal snacks. I made Robert, Allie & Nicole stop grazing to smile for a snapshot.

No Marx Foods company party is complete without a little surf n’ turf. Sadly, we didn’t catch a photo of the lobster tails or the oysters, but we DID get this shot:

Look at that grill! It was just as beautiful when it was covered with 30 lobster tails…needless to say, we ate well.

The night ended with a fire in the firepit, s’mores, cocktails & story-time.

Summer party 2012 was a blast!

Anatomy of a Photo Shoot 2

Once a month, we put on a big production of a photo shoot with our executive chef.  It has gotten to be a bigger production than the last time I wrote about it, but we still follow the same basic formula.  Those shoots are orderly and we reliably churn out about 15 impeccable recipes in a single day for our customers.

Lately we have also gotten into the habit of doing smaller shoots without a chef, which means a less formal, more basic, more chaotic day with much less reliable results.  In a shoot with a proper chef almost 100% of the dishes are on point.  Left to our own devices, we’re probably more like 75%.  Oh well.  We have fun with it.  Here’s some shots from a recent chef-less day spent exploring applications for panforte and vigna oro balsamic vinegar.  Turns out you can crisp up panforte like a cookie, which opens up a lot of possibilities.  We’ll be streaming ideas out on the blog shortly…

Unwrapping chocolate panforte for its closeup.

Preparing asparagus with vigna oro balsamic and parmigiano reggiano.

A close-up of the panforte-pancetta salad as we sprinkled cheese on it…because you know you wanted one.

Grilled peaches with mascarpone and balsamic vinegar for dessert!



The 6th Marx Generation is Here!

I’m an uncle as of March 11th!  And the Marx family now has the 6th generation to groom for the family business.  That means that as soon as he can push a broom, that cute little dude is headed straight to the warehouse.  We are big fans of child labor in this family.  Lucky for him, our business has gotten a lot cleaner than the slaughterhouse that I grew up in.

Welcome Jaxson Monroe Marx.

Look at that cute little bugger … already at work at 2 months old.  Here he is practicing for the holiday party with some butt photocopying.

And there he is trying on Daddy’s (Keith’s) headset.  I’m sure he’ll be selling meat in no time.  Look how proud Keith is.  For some reason this picture makes me imagine Keith playing mama bird / baby bird with beef tartare very soon.

Based on his name, my prediction is that he’ll have the following attributes:

Jaxson.  The name Jaxson is so similar in spelling and sound to his uncle Justin (ahem, me) that he’s sure to be all of the wonderful things that you want in a man.  Haha, just kidding.  Sorry Keith, but with that name, he’ll probably be all of the things that you make fun of me for.

Monroe.  Monroe is his fun-loving grandfather’s first name.  Based on this middle name, we know that he will be a ball buster of epic proportions and a really cuddly grandfather.  Let me apologize in advance to his future younger siblings and congratulate his future grandkids.

Marx.  He’ll be a hard core carnivore.  And he’ll never lose his love of boobs.

Welcome little buddy.  We love you.  And we’ll put you to work real soon.  Now, will you just let Keith get a good night of sleep so he can focus on his work, damnit 😉