Meet Jake Ahles and Max Block, the duo behind The Fare Trade. Recently we started working with them and finding out how they started their amazing culinary-driven masterpiece. The Fare Trade is a curated collection of ingredients tested and loved by a hand-picked up-and-coming chef or culinary professional delivered monthly to your door. Each month Jake and Max team up with someone new to bring their subscribers and customers a new box full of diverse and unique ingredients from many local and small-batch culinary brands. We sat down with them to learn more about how they started their company and were able to test out one of their boxes for ourselves.
How did you get started in the kitchen?
Jake: Max + I both grew up with families that cooked together. When we moved off campus in college, we rediscovered our love for food and found ourselves visiting local farmers markets and family-owned gourmet grocers in the area. After graduating and at the time unemployed, it was the perfect opportunity to develop my kitchen skills. I walked into a restaurant called District, under Chef Kris Morningstar, and asked if I could observe. Luckily they said yes + after a few weeks I was offered a position! It was an amazing and worthwhile experience.
Were you always interested in food and cooking? Photography?
Jake: My passion for food and photography both stem stem from my father - who is both an amazing cook and photographer. My weekends were often filled with helping my dad in the kitchen or going on photographic adventures - learning the basics of photography in the days before digital.
Max: My family works within the food industry - buying and selling liquor licenses nationwide - so I grew up surrounded by the world of restaurants and chefs. I always wanted to find out how to build on that momentum and luckily The FareTrade has allowed for an amazing extension of that lineage.
Who taught you to cook?
Jake: I initially learned how to cook alongside my father. My family ate dinner together nearly every night + I often found myself helping with the prep. My professional kitchen skills stem from Chef Morningstar, where I learned proper culinary techniques and build off the foundation that was laid for me growing up.
Max: Growing up my family made it a point to eat dinner together as much as possible. My brother and I were each given one task from our father to accomplish, be it stirring a risotto, making the salad dressing or plating the dish. We didn't realize it at the time but we both gained a skill-set that after we left home for college provided a great launch-point for cooking on our own.
How do you get ideas for photo shoots?
Jake: Particularly for photoshoots with The FareTrade, we like to let the food outline the shoot. The ingredients in the products or the recipe/finished dishes inspire us not only in the kitchen but for the photo shoots as well.
What inspires your ideas for new products or recipes?
Jake: The producers of the products are really who inspire us. There are so many amazing craftsmen and women across the country right now. The monthly chefs get the credit for the recipes 100%. The dishes are created solely based on the chef's imagination of what they would cook in their restaurants or how they would use the products at home. We do craft our own recipes on our blog, The Trade, in which we try to challenge both our team + our readers while making dishes that we would want to eat ourselves.
Max: What's amazing about The FareTrade is that it is something very collaborative - from the producers to the chefs to the community of members. We're constantly inspired by the passion for their craft and it in turn inspires us to provide a platform that showcases their talent in the brightest light. We also think of The FareTrade as a "New Culinary Adventure Each Month" - playing on that idea of sending our community on a vivid and delicious adventure is inspiring in itself.
How do your hobbies influence what you make?
Jake: The FareTrade is a perfect amalgamation of my greatest passions - food, photography + travel. Being able to share these passions with The FareTrade’s community is affirming and rewarding, to say the least.
Max: What The FareTrade seeks to accomplish really represents us at our core. A passion for food is what drives us everyday whether its recipe testing, speaking to chefs, or experiencing a new restaurant. Food is what truly connects every person - there is nothing more authentic than getting around the table and sharing an amazing meal with those you love or those you've just met.
What has been your biggest lesson?
Jake: Trust your gut. There are often multiple sources of information and opinions (which should be listened to and weighed) but ultimately you know what is best for your company.
What's your favorite thing about sharing your recipes and products?
Max: We're thrilled to be able to provide home cooks and food fans exclusive access to the nation's most talented chefs who help them change their cooking forever while also introducing them to amazing ingredients they've likely never heard of. All from the comfort of their own home.
What's been your best advice you've been given?
Jake: Be persistent. Starting a new business is a daily roller coaster with highs and lows. You need to have the courage and strength to get through the low points to reach the highs.
Max: My mother gave me a paperweight years ago that says "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" - I look at it every morning and it gets me ready to conquer the day.
What's been your biggest challenge?
Jake: Ultimately we love building and growing The FareTrade. While every day presents new challenges, that is part of what brings the joy and excitement of running a business.
Max: There are obstacles everyday in running any company but at the end of it we get to do what we love and that's amazing. Any challenge we've overcome has resulted in a better understanding of what The FareTrade is. And most likely a nice glass of Scotch.