It's been almost four years since we first sat down with Andrew Gruel of Slapfish. Since that time, the sustainable brand has gone brick-and-mortar, expanded into Dubai, and has been featured on TODAY. Next up: Co-hosting duties with Anthony Dispensa (his West Coast Director of Operations) on FYI's Say It To My Face, premiering this Saturday night. Now seemed as good a time as any to catch up over lunch.
You've been on your fair share of television shows. Are there any stereotypes about television that you found true?
One stereotype is that it is every producer's goal to get people to cry on TV. That's true.
How was your experience on the TODAY show?
One of the highlights of my career. It was part of a summer series called Fresh Cooks Live. I did a 30-minute lead-in with Carson Daly, filmed live on Go-Pro where we prepped a few recipes. It was pretty fun because it was very reality-style. I got to joke and get comfortable with Carson Daly.
What can you tell us about Say It To My Face? I previewed one of the episodes, and it was pretty intense.
Restaurants and critics meet face-to-face, for the first time, to air grievances. We help owners and chefs learn that listening to customer's criticism, while having an open mind, will prove to be beneficial in salvaging a restaurant's reputation before it's too late. From the menu, to the decor, to the staffing– we will look to elevate their business in hopes that their toughest online critics will change their reviews, while helping to encourage new customers to come through the door.
Congrats on being a new dad! Was fatherhood what you expected?
Fatherhood is amazing. I really didn't know what to expect outside of what WebMD told me. I really love poop jokes, so it has been a fun ride thus far.
Slapfish is doing well. How did your Dubai deal happen? Did you need to adjust your menu to the culture?
A group out of the Middle East was looking for young, start-up US brands with chef-driven food to enter into various markets in the Middle East. The structure was as a franchise. Since I was already considering franchising in the US, I thought this was a great way to pressure test the franchising platform in a market outside the US– almost a rough draft of sorts.
We have had to change the menu and service style significantly in the Middle East to meet the local palate and customs.
Where and when are the next locations to open?
UCI and LAX in June. BWI (Baltimore) in August/September.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I went to college to study piano performance.
What turns you own, creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Reading turns me on in every way. I wish I could pause time and read every book in the world. I love to learn and try and pick up as many useless skills as possible. My most recent: Juggling.
When we first sat down for an interview four years ago, your five/ten year goal was, "Traveling, cooking, opening up more Slapfish locations and teaching young cooks how to take themselves less seriously." Does that still hold true?
That is still my goal! I've gotten more ambitious and added to the list opening up a restaurant hall and culinary school combo; almost a vocational school of sorts.
Say It To My Face premieres Saturday at 10 p.m. (EST) on FYI.