Richard Tarlov owns Canyon Market in San Francisco. Opened in 2006 with his wife Janet, Canyon serves the Glen Park neighborhood with natural and organic groceries, cheese, prepared foods, an on-site organic bread bakery, produce, meat and seafood as well as a full wine and beer department, coffee bar and catering. Prior to opening the store, Richard consulted for west coast food concerns like Boudin Bakery, Market Hall Foods, PlumpJack Group and Hearst Ranch Beef. Richard worked for the Oakville Grocery during its growth years, opening several stores and serving in management and executive positions. In New York, where he cut his teeth in the food trade, Richard worked for the original Balducci’s, the first Dean & Deluca and other specialty stores. A graduate of Middlebury College, Richard stayed in Vermont to join some friends to start Cate Farm, a diversified organic farm, then co-managed the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier. These experiences are woven into the texture of Canyon Market, which Richard views as a long-term sustainability and community-building project. Richard and Janet live close to their market with sons Max and Eliot.


When did you first decide you wanted to make food your career?
There wasn’t a moment of decision. It was more of a slow caramelization that started with working on a farm after college, then living in Paris right after that with my friend Molly Stevens. She was a stagiere at La Varenne, and watching those chefs at work really flicked a switch. It was about how serious a food career could be, so I think that was part of the process.

How did you get where you are today in the food business?
Good question! It has been a winding path. I think any entrepreneurial endeavor is embedded with various life-lessons that one learns. Hard work is an obvious one that we hear about a lot. But what allows hard work, or passionate application of one’s skills and efforts? I think for me that has a lot to do with a love of doing things well, a real desire to finish projects and not let others down, and a sort of bizarre commitment to demonstrating that no work is below me or anyone else that I work with, of emulating the masters of craftsmanship and artistry whom I’ve always admired—cooks, sculptors, furniture makers, builders. I love hand work and hard work. Plus lots of reading, plenty of introspection and reflection has helped.

What is your favorite food experience?
a. Dining at Michel Bras outside of Laguiole, France with my wife, Janet.

If you had one last meal, what would it be?
Fire-roasted Yukon River salmon, sautéed broccoli di rapa, with a bottle of old Hanzell chardonnay.

What is the most exciting thing going on in food right now, in your opinion?
That so many young people are starting little food businesses—dining, products, services like trucks and delivery. This in spite of the dreadful number of regulations and paperwork that seems designed to frustrate business development in many cities.

What advice do you have for young people who wanted a career in food?
Dive into the most hands-on, most customer-facing part of the food business that you can afford to do. That’s what will teach you where real success lies and where the pain points are that need to be solved.

What condiment is always in your refrigerator?
Some sort of nuclear hot sauce.

What was your first cookbook?
Wow, I cannot recall. Possibly the Moosewood Cookbook when I was in college.

What cookbook could you not live without?
I treasure cookbooks, I collect them, even keep a catalog of them, but actually am not a by-the-recipe person. So I don’t have that feeling of one book I couldn’t live without. However, the one that I get the most inspiration and entertaining ideas from is probably Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

What is your go-to recipe for entertaining?
Craig Claiborne’s spatchcock chicken. Killer! Easy (if slightly messy) and SO delicious.

Where do you shop for food?
One guess! Seriously, in addition to our own store, I shop around at various places, both to see what’s going on and to discover things. Rainbow Grocery is one of the single best retail institutions on planet Earth. We still shop there regularly because there is always something new to learn, and also I make a tea that we drink daily and the ingredients are only available in bulk there. (It’s called RTT: chamomile, licorice root, echinacea and golden seal, all organic.)

What are you working on today and how will it impact your business?
Our company is almost 11 and has over 100 employees, so we are working on developing our management team and researching employee stock ownership plans, while keeping our margins intact in a tumultuous phase of the Bay Area food store scene. Janet and I also want to write a book about our food lives, with recipes.

Are you involved with a food non-profit? If so, which one and what do you do?
Our store is a founding member of the Good Food Retailer Collaborative, which is part of the Good Food Foundation, and I’m quite involved with that as a judge and part of the membership committee; I’m also on a national retailer committee of the Specialty Food Association, and am getting more involved with an organization that is vital for stores like ours, the Independent Natural Foods Retailers Association, INFRA—a super-dynamic and remarkably effective group.

What chefs or blogs do you follow?
I’ve almost stopped reading blogs because Instagram and Twitter have taken over. I follow NYTfood, Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, Liz Prueitt of Tartine, Ottolenghi, Massimo Bottura, Anissa Helou, Rene Redzeppi, Magnus Faviken, the Bread Bakers Guild, The Brooklyn Kitchen, among others.

Have you held SFPFS board positions in the past?
I was on the board some years ago, and was treasurer for a time. That turned out to be a huge challenge—I was not up for sorting out the books at that stage of the organization’s growth. Painful! But I loved serving on the board and connecting with fellow members.

What have you gained from being a member of the SFPFS?
When I was working for other companies and then as an independent consultant, it was hugely beneficial to have the industry connectivity that SFPFS offers. Since opening our store we’ve been so incredibly busy that my involvement, sadly, has tapered off. So, I look forward to when both our kids are off to college so I can attend more events!