about Nate Hybl – founder
My story is that of my own culinary awakening and how it drove my mission to create a product that answers a consumer need. I didn’t know what it was going to be exactly, but I knew there was a different way to deliver flavors in a quick, healthy and innovative way. Five years ago I started collecting pieces to the puzzle that would lead me to create gusto!
Growing up in a small town in South Georgia, admittedly my exposure to exotic flavors was limited. But through my travels, living in different cities, and making new acquaintances, I began to notice a serious new interest in food and flavor. I started to play around in the kitchen with literally no idea what I was doing – I didn’t even know how to slice an onion! I’ll never forget this, but the real tipping point that would launch me on my journey was my experience with what I affectionately call the Curious Carrot Salad. I decided to follow an online recipe of freshly grated carrots, lime juice, fresh cilantro and toasted cumin and mustard seeds. After burning two batches of cumin seeds on the stove, I finally got the recipe right. When I took my first bite, the burst of flavors – the tangy citrus with the sweet of the carrot blending with the earthy spices – was the most explosive thing I had ever tasted. One bite and I was hooked. It set off the chain of events that ignited my culinary awakening.
So there I was, a former NFL quarterback with no idea what life was about to throw at me. I got hit with a bolt of inspiration that said, “Follow this feeling!” And that’s what I did! I became a food and restaurant enthusiast, a student of different cuisines, and I embarked on the culinary journey of a lifetime. I spent long hours in Whole Foods studying amongst an overwhelming amount of sensory engagement. The vibrant colors of the produce, the combinations of flavors in the sauce aisle, the uniqueness of every spice captivated my attention. And the stories behind each ingredient fascinated me. What was tahini? Why, Where, and How is it used? You mean to tell me that Hispanic, Israeli, and Japanese cuisines all incorporate sesame seeds…?
A new passion was growing inside me that I could not ignore.
For years I worked in the restaurant industry in any position I could find, striving to really learn the essence of the business. In my spare time I read about my favorite businesses, absorbing the pages with enthusiasm. I transformed my kitchen into a test kitchen where I experimented with recipes, flavors, and foods that filled me with enthusiasm. I hosted ‘Nate Nights’ where I would try out what I was working on, begging for opinions from friends and eager to gather feedback. I witnessed my own palate continue to grow as I wandered down the path of discovery. No matter how tough the journey got, my strengthening passion for flavor would not allow me to give up this calling.
What began as intrigue and curiosity blossomed into a surprising new personal mission. It became clear to me that I was meant to share what I have learned and figure out how to transfer this knowledge into food that could be enjoyed by anyone. This food had to offer a fresh, convenient, and affordable new take on the international flavors I had fallen in love with. I believe, with gusto!, I have found an outlet to share my passion for flavor with you. I invite you to join in a collective culinary adventure as we all work to find our gusto!
about Shawn Grodensky – culinary leader
At gusto!, Shawn brings a fresh blend of procedural innovation, culinary talent and strategic leadership. The vision of gusto! encourages him to use his skills to create bold dishes, fusing authentic, fresh flavors of the world in a quick-casual setting. Shawn grew up in the restaurant industry and the importance of efficiency and a passion for delicious, soulful food were ingrained in him from a young age.
After college, Shawn headed to Hyde Park, New York to develop and refine his culinary skills at the Culinary Institute of America. Upon graduating with honors, he quickly involved himself in many culinary ventures in his home state of Virginia. Seeking a new opportunity and adventure, Shawn and his wife packed up and headed to Atlanta, Georgia, where Shawn became Executive Sous Chef of The General Muir. Now Shawn is an integral part of making the concept of gusto! translate to the food and bringing you an innovative culinary experience with every bite.
about Ed Howie – brand leader
A mutual friend introduced Ed and Nate in March of 2010. Their friend loved Nate’s food and knew Ed’s expertise in restaurants and branding so they set up a tasting. Ed’s first bite was Nate’s notorious Curious Carrots and then he had another bite and another. Ed tasted everything Nate had made, he loved the flavors and was hooked. From there they set out to partner together and build a brand.
Ed began his restaurant career with Chick-fil-A when he was 15, ultimately working for Chick-fil-A for 17 years. After working through high school and college while at University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, he was hired by Chick-fil-A, Inc. and worked in Operations helping restaurant Operators throughout the United States sell more chicken and make more money. Ed was then the first Director of Marketing for Atlanta Bread Company before being recruited away by H-E-B Grocery in San Antonio, TX. Ed served as Director of Food Service Marketing for H-E-B Grocery Company, a $19 billion regional grocery store chain. H-E-B is long regarded as one of the most innovative retail organizations in the world. Ed left H-E-B in 2003 to start brandtricity (brand-true, llc) his own strategic marketing and branding firm. An experienced and proven marketing and branding leader, Ed also is a partner in Message Methodology- a digital marketing brand firm; Market-True | Texas Ranger Foods- a specialty foods brand-to-market company; and Signature Star Foods- a curator and marketer of Texas’ best foods.