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Interview: Craig Kanarick of Mouth

We speak with the indie food and wine purveyor about working with a famed chef and how his mom's cooking inspired his career

by Meghan Killeen
on 03 June 2014

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From digital pioneer to foodie extraordinaire, Mouth CEO and friend of CH, Craig Kanarick’s entrepreneurial spirit runs deep. Establishing himself at the forefront of digital technology, Kanarick helped found Razorfish in 1995, premiering as one of the first innovative agencies to usher in a new movement in interactive marketing. In 2001, Kanarick merged digital stratosphere with nuts and bolts design as co-founder of the Lab at Rockwell Group, bringing technology to architectural projects.

A proponent of Brooklyn’s emergent food scene, Kanarick seized an opportunity to connect artisanal food-makers with customers nationally by launching the online marketplace, Mouth. Artfully arranged, Kanarick lends his own photographic talents to showcasing the items. Dubbed ‘indie food’, Mouth features handcrafted products that retain large taste flavor in small batches. Expanding to other regions, Mouth offers local gourmet with an editorial flair and ease—and now exists offline as a brick-and-mortar bottle shop in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Thanks to The Lincoln Motor Company we paid Kanarick a visit to learn more about indie food and his plans to make the best of the best more accessible.

What were some of your interests growing up—have they influenced the way you approached your career?

I grew up in a home where my mom cooked almost every night and we shared a family meal. There was a huge garden in the backyard, so food and growing food was a big part of my childhood. In order to keep things interesting, my mom often experimented with new recipes, so we were always tasting a variety of foods and I often got involved with cooking.

I also got a chance to use computers at a young age, which, for someone as old as me is a big deal as access to computers wasn't so common in the '70s or '80s. This, too, obviously played a big part in my early career and now, starting an e-commerce company.

As a consultant to both Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, what do you think makes an enduring brand or company?

Enduring brands are complex beasts. They have to remain consistent in everything they do, yet they also need to be able to evolve and grow and adjust over time. Great brands pay attention to both the big picture and to every single small detail so that every touch-point is on-brand. They deliver something useful, they are honest, they are transparent, they are interesting.

After Razorfish you worked for famed chef, Mario Batali. What was that like and what did you learn that you've applied to Mouth?

What I loved about my time at Babbo was being part of a team ­a team working together to do our best under crazy pressure situations. In a kitchen, you're working with fire, knives, flesh and it can get very visceral. It was intense and competitive, but there was tremendous camaraderie and collaboration—and this proved to be the most valuable lesson of all.

Beyond that, it was inspiring to see how important food is to people, and the different types of relationships that people have with it. Mario has a great zest for life and his passion is infectious so much so that you want to join in. You can't help it. I hope that I bring a little bit of that excitement to Mouth—both to our customers and to our own team.

What was the inspiration that made Mouth a reality?

The inspiration for Mouth came when visiting a small, indie butcher shop/specialty food store in Brooklyn. The owner wasn't doing e-commerce and when we asked why not, he looked out from behind the counter—holding a cleaver, his apron bloody—and said, "Look at me. You think I'm going to build a website?" Not only was he focused on what he did best, he also didn't have the resources to deal with shipping or to scale. It was clear that indie food was the most interesting thing happening in the world of food today, so ­we jumped on it.

What is a food that you would like to make or see offered?

We're constantly discovering new indie foods every day. We have hunted down everything from excellent domestic olives to high-quality turkey, chicken and—yes—mushroom jerky, a domestic alternative to anchovies, more products made with domestic tomatoes and more organic ingredients in almost everything.

How would you describe your customers?

Our customers are hungry and they are smart. They're looking for interesting foods ­for both better versions of the foods they have been eating forever and for new stuff to try. They also want to have some fun. Food, after all, is a joy and shopping for it should be exciting and entertaining.

What does the word "re-imagine" mean to you and how has it influenced the philosophy behind Mouth?

Re-imagine means not being afraid to be wrong, moving forward. Trusting your gut but also listening to others, especially the least obvious people.

Images courtesy of Alessandro Simonetti

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