Justin Marx: Food Scout Extraordinaire
Big-deal chefs and ambitious home cooks rely on online grocer Justin Marx for rarefied ingredients of all types, from yak steaks to edible pansies.
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Fact Sheet: Justin Marx
“I like to say I grew up in a veal slaughterhouse in New Jersey,” says Justin Marx, co-founder of the remarkable specialty grocer MarxFoods.com. In 2002, Marx left his family’s high-end meat wholesale business, Marx Imports, and moved to Seattle. “I went because of a woman, not because of psychological scars,” he jokes. Five years later he launched MarxFoods.com, selling his family’s meats online to home cooks. He also began scouring local markets and trade shows for truly spectacular products that have nothing to do with meat. Now he sells about 1,200 foods, including 20 varieties of edible flower (“My brother, who helps run the meat business, writes me emails that start, ‘Dear Pansy.’ But pansies are delicious!”) and 12 types of heirloom potato from Olsen Farms in Colville, Washington. “One by one, I’ve converted many of the people I love at my favorite farmers’ markets into vendors who will ship for us,” he says. Later this year, he plans to open a store in Seattle that will showcase a rotating selection of his finds.
Marx’s clients include important restaurants—Alinea in Chicago gets its lychee-like rambutans from him—as well as ambitious home cooks. The latter are often thrill-seekers in search of exotica like yak meat or ghost chiles, which were considered to be the hottest in the world until the recent discovery of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. (Marx is on the lookout for a source.) “We also sell to people with the planet’s most spoiled pets, who buy ground kangaroo or rabbit meat for their dogs.” If a customer wants something Marx doesn’t offer, he’ll special-order it if he can. “We get regular requests for meats like muskrat and raccoon. I also think we’ve been asked for the testicles from every mammal around.” All of the domestic meats he sells come from farms, the only legal source, with just one exception: wild boar (including whole ones), humanely trapped in the Texas Hill Country.
Justin Marx’s Gourmet Foods Portfolio
All prices include shipping. To buy, visit marxfoods.com.
Trapped in Texas, where it’s a wild pest, boar is the ultimate sustainable meat. $201 for 4 racks. © Ryan Clark for Marx Foods
These spiny-skinned fruits are like the “punk-rock brother” to lychees, says Marx. $115 for 5 lbs. © Ryan Clark for Marx Foods
Clipped fresh to order, slightly minty pansies make great garnishes for cakes and cocktails. $66 for 50 flowers. © Ryan Clark for Marx Foods
When they are in season, foragers bring wild mushrooms right to Marx’s warehouse. $140 for 2 lbs. © Ryan Clark for Marx Foods
In the fall, Marx sells 12 varieties of Washington-grown, jewel-colored potatoes. $50 for a 10-lb sampler. © Ryan Clark for Marx Foods