Chef Operating Officer

Gav Martell in the kitchen

People constantly ask me how I’m able to accomplish everything I do.

Look, I get it, I’m a busy guy. I’m Chief Operating Officer of SkyX. I’m a chef who’s been on MasterChef Canada and hosts pop-up restaurants in his backyard. I have three wonderful teenagers and an all-star writer, photographer, baker of a wife. I’m the lead singer in a rock band. I’m president of my synagogue. I’m in a running group. I organize a weekly ice hockey game (yes, we play right through the summer, this is Canada). I go on trips multiple times a year with my buddies to tour baseball stadiums and always hit up Detroit to tailgate with the NFL Thanksgiving faithful.

Busy by nature I’m a doer. I always have been. I can remember organizing stuff like this back in elementary school. I was always on student council. I don’t know why. I think I know that if I want something good, sometimes I’m the best person to make sure it happens.

It isn’t magic. I visualize something I want to accomplish, I analyze the steps needed to get it done right, I make sure they’re followed through and everything just falls into place. In time, I learned to delegate, and when I trust someone, I generally trust them implicitly. Everything revolves around visualizing, organizing, orchestrating and executing. It’s what has made me successful at work, in the kitchen, and in life.

In the kitchen, I do this with recipes all the time. Complex recipes I immediately simplify. If you can make an amazing dish in 45 mins, why make it in 4 hours? When I’m cooking the stakes can be high. I’m often feeding a room full of friends with high expectations, or worse – guests I may not even know and who are paying for the experience! It brings everything up another level in terms of risk. People are hungry. Ingredients are often expensive and delicate. Oil is popping, pans are searing, fire is burning, smoke is billowing, water is boiling… Pressure!

But there I am in my happy place. It’s like a complicated song and I’m the conductor. There’s a plan in my head, the ingredients are all prepared in advance, I’ve laid an order of execution out in my mind that intertwines steps from various dishes that have to execute perfectly, and in time…or dinner’s a bust. And yet nearly every time…exactly how I’d hoped it would turn out. It’s a beautiful thing.

My kids always laugh at me because once I’ve cooked something, if I’m pleased with how it’s turned out I’ll either purr while I’m eating it or I’ll ask someone: “it’s good, right?” For me, this orchestrated labour of love is only performed so that I can…
(1) deliver a dish as wonderful and delicious as I had envisioned from the outset and
(2) share it with a customer, family member or friend, and they love it too …

The ultimate reward is not the compliment. It’s sharing something delicious for mutual enjoyment.

Product delivery is not all that different. Software, hardware, it doesn’t matter. The steps are complex. The path to success has intertwined complexities from various stakeholders and groups. I soak it all in… and then Visualize. Organize. Orchestrate. Execute. The busier and more complex the situation the happier I am to jump in, see the logical path through the tangle of details and expectations, and lead the team to success. Sometimes this means helping find a new tool or process for a team to use to be more efficient. That is, doing something better than they did before, in less time, or at a cheaper rate or, helping teams deliver product on time, within scope, while maximizing the end quality.

It’s made for some very proud moments in all aspects of my life. And occasionally, some very delicious lunches for my coworkers!