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Why I had to kill The Underground market....

On letting go....

I went to film school, and something a professor once said has really stuck with me (one of the few things that did…). It was the notion that sometimes you have to "kill your babies". He was talking about filmmaking of course, and what he was alluding to was the idea that sometimes the things that are the closest to your heart (a protagonist, strong image, compelling story arc, or exceptional line of dialogue) need to be cut. Though they seem vitally important, or--even worse-- have worked really well in the past, sometimes you need to get rid of them. Again, he was discussing film, but over the years I’ve thought a lot about this concept as it pertains to all things in life: the relationship that needs to end even though you’re overwhelmingly comfortable in it, the city or job you need to leave if you’re ever going to follow your dreams, and in this case; a successful project you’ve created that needs to be put to bed.

The Underground Market was my baby. It was an idea that flashed into my mind while I was driving across the Bay Bridge (my favorite ideas come on solo drives), and I went for it. It was successful in a way that I would never have imagined; who really thinks they’ll end up on the front page of the New York Times for starting a food market? This success has given the vendors who got their start at the market the jumpstart they needed to launch their businesses, and has allowed us to take the leap towards bigger projects like Forage Kitchen. I truly could not have asked for a better outcome, and honestly, at times I’ve felt terrified to see it go.

So why kill it?  The market needed to close. It was originally created to lower the bar to entry for folks who made delicious food and wanted to sell it. Home cooks with a dream of starting a business, but without the resources, hence “Underground”. Since being shut down, there is nothing underground about it. We need to get all the same permits, pay all the same fees as any other event, and turn down home cooks as vendors.  It didn’t feel right to keep it open like this.

To be successful, you need to always be looking forward. It was scary closing down the market. It was what I was known for, part of my line about what I did when people asked at parties, and just a great event to be a part of. I still wonder if I’ll top it. Part of me wanted to keep it going forever, but part of me also knew that wasn’t the way  things work.

I feel that the fear of seeing the end of something--especially something you care deeply about and have worked incredibly hard to build-- stems from a fear that you won’t be able to produce anything better, that the recipe or concept you’ve created can’t be shared because somehow great ideas and inspiration are finite, the dread that if you let this person go, there won’t be anyone else to follow. I fall prey to this fear myself, but deep down I believe that this kind of thinking is self-fulfilling.

If you don’t share your ideas far and wide, they won’t be as sensational as they could have been; if you don’t--at times-- let go of things that you love, you close yourself off to new experiences. To move forward you need to let go of the past, it’s as true of ideas as it is of emotions. So the next time you have an idea/job/city that you’re holding onto too desperately, think of this concept and consider that maybe the only way to find something better is to let go of what you already have.

Here's a nostalgic look at the Underground Market.