When it comes to Mad River Taste, the makers and growers are the rock stars. They have pursued their passions, honed their crafts and spent long hours making and perfecting their products. The rest of us are "brand ambassadors," cheerleaders, advisors, facilitators and educators; the support team so to speak. It is unusual for fledgling food and beverage entrepreneurs to have access to the kind of resources available to them that are available between the Mad River Food Hub and the Mad River Taste Place. Here are some of the key people behind those operations.
Robin Morris, President and CEO
Robin is the genius behind the Mad River Food Hub and the Mad River Taste Place. Much of his career prior to founding the Food Hub was focused on financial management and business planning. Morris has helped several privately held businesses reorganize and become profitable operations.
That experience, which included several years in the food business as the CFO of American Flatbread, plus co-ownership of an industrial park in Waitsfield positioned Robin to fill a need in the growing Vermont food system. Studies predicted that, despite the strong market for local food throughout the state, meeting the demand would be impossible due to inadequate infrastructure such as state and federally approved processing rooms, adequate commercial freezer and refrigeration and distribution and transportation networks. In 2011 Morris founded the Mad River Food Hub to address all of those needs.
After five years of helping local "foodpreneurs" start and run successful businesses, a new need became apparent as Morris saw new food businesses struggling to get their products into the marketplace. With all of the critical tasks start-up operations tackle on a daily basis, marketing was often far down on the to-do list. Robin was convinced that the most important step in marketing the amazing food coming out of the food hub was getting it into people's mouths and the Mad River Taste Place was born.
Today Morris splits his time between the two operations that are located less than 1/4 mile apart. In the true spirit of mentoring the next generation, he has hired two highly talented managers to oversee the daily operations of both businesses and he stays focused on the big picture which includes positioning Mad River Taste as a brand that will distinguish the Mad River Valley as a food destination for Vermont visitors.
Bill Cavanaugh, Manager
Mad River Food Hub
The experience and knowledge that Bill brings to the Mad River Food Hub is closer to that of a 30-year journeyman butcher and organic farmer than the 2009 Political Science graduate of SUNY Albany that he is. After training as a butcher and market coordinator, he planned and built out a state-of-the-art processing food hub and education center in Brooklyn and from there oversaw all business operations at a small-scale butchery in Pennsylvania.
With this wide range of experience from processing and butchering to operations and financial management, Bill works closely with customers (food entrepreneurs) of the Mad River Food Hub who often are just starting their businesses and need help with everything from complying with state and federal food handling regulations, to budgeting, packaging, marketing and distribution.
Bill works closely with Mary Tuthill at the Mad River Taste Place to make sure that products from the Food Hub are properly marketed and are in ample supply to meet demand.
Mary Tuthill, Head Cheesemonger and Retail Manager
Mad River Taste Place
Mary is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, one of less than 1000 throughout the United States. She has extensive knowledge of cheese and uses her experience and education to personally curate the local and Vermont products featured at the Taste Place. She is responsible for training the staff on all of the 50+ Vermont cheeses offered at the Taste Place assuring every customer has an informative tasting experience as well as expert assistance selecting cheeses to purchase.
Mary joined the Taste Place prior to the business starting up and was instrumental in developing retail operations systems. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, her background includes baking and fine pastries, catering operations and retail management.
Mary's experience combined with her excellent palette and passion for good food makes her the perfect person to head up the staff at the Taste Place.