SilverStrategy is very excited to have client Max Goldberg of livingmaxwell.com futured in the Style section’s Up Close profile piece in the New York Times today.
Yielding to His Natural Self
THE sidewalks of the East Village were packed with chain smokers and European bar-hoppers, but Max Goldberg, a self-appointed organic-food guru, ducked into Commodities Natural Market, a modern health-food store on First Avenue. He was conducting product research.
He studied a jar of Arrowhead Mills creamy organic peanut butter and remarked on the superior growth conditions of peanuts from New Mexico compared with those from Georgia. Then he pointed to a pack of banana-flavored YoBaby, a brand of organic yogurt for infants. “This is the only Stonyfield product with bilingual labels,” he said, praising the wisdom of appealing to the country’s surging Hispanic market. “I eat it all the time.”
Never mind that Mr. Goldberg has no degree in nutrition or was once a Jack Daniels-swilling party boy whose dinner often consisted of four Gray’s Papaya hot dogs piled with sauerkraut.
But just as big corporations like Wal-Mart have embraced the emerging organic food market, Mr. Goldberg, 41, a former Wall Street investment banker, has discovered a potential career niche as an expert on organic food. Branding himself as a regular guy who took his health into his own hands, Mr. Goldberg now dispenses advice on how to eat and shop organic through his popular Twitter feed and blog, livingmaxwell.com.
For organic naïfs, the site offers answers to common Google searches, like which vegetables and fruits are worth buying organic (answer: conventional produce that is high in chemicals, like peaches and apples). It also features traffic-boosting interviews with organic-food fans like the actress Rachelle Lefevre, who played the evil vampire Victoria from “Twilight,” and humorous asides on his failed attempts to date women who eat nonorganic food.
“I don’t think people know where to begin with organic food in this country,” Mr. Goldberg said over a slice of pizza covered with uncooked vegetables and a pint of green juice at Caravan of Dreams, a vegan cafe on East Sixth Street. Doe-eyed and boyish in a gray wool sweater and Seven jeans — both nonorganic, he confessed — he brought to mind a younger, slimmer Matthew Broderick. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive’ or ‘I don’t know where to get it,’ ” he said. “So I’m trying to teach them by making the information on my blog as accessible as possible.”
As a man who blends his own Brazilian nut milk each morning, Mr. Goldberg gives advice that carries a certain authority. But he is no Dr. Andrew Weil, a fact he’d be the first to admit.
Raised in an affluent suburb of Boston, Mr. Goldberg graduated from Brown University in 1992 and took a job with Prudential Securities. After three years he left to attend Columbia Business School, and he went on to work for various biotech and software companies.
Like many people he knew, Mr. Goldberg had been on Prozac since college, during the height of its wonder-drug status. He blames the drug, and the emotional numbness he said it induced, for the heavy drinking binges in his 20s. “I couldn’t drink one beer,” he said. “It had to be like 10.”
He quit drinking in 1999 after a family intervention and stopped smoking cigarettes the next year. Then in 2001, he decided to stop taking Prozac after meeting with a naturopath who taught him about natural herbs and the dangers of pesticides.
But quitting Prozac wasn’t easy. It precipitated what Mr. Goldberg described as a three-and-a-half-year struggle for survival that included a suicide attempt. During this time, he broke up with his girlfriend, moved back in with his parents and lost nearly a million dollars in Web investments when the dot-com bubble popped.
Still, he refused to go back on antidepressants. Adhering to a 100 percent organic diet, he said, helped him turn the corner. So did the 2004 film “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” a New Age documentary about the life-altering powers of positive thinking, which he said he considers the “most important movie ever made.”
Gradually, his quest to keep toxins out of his body made him want to help others do the same. He started his Web site in 2009, intending it as an organic-food counterpart to green blogs like TreeHugger and Ecofabulous. Skeptical friends from the financial world who ate nonorganic food were his first Web interview subjects.
Since then, Mr. Goldberg has interviewed notable advocates of sustainable food like Joel Salatin and Gary Hirshberg, who were both featured in the documentary “Food, Inc.” To build his audience, he responds to every person who comments and follows 17,576 people on Twitter. “Everyone who follows me I follow back,” he said. “It’s a karma thing.”
His business background still shows through. He admits to harboring dreams of his own Food Network show, or a line of livingmaxwell-brand products, like organic energy bars or a fruit and vegetable wash.
But for now, he’s trying to establish himself among the city’s organic elite, people like Marcus Antebi, who owns the Juice Press, an organic juice bar on East First Street that claims to offer the widest variety of pressed juice formulas in the city. After pizza, Mr. Goldberg swung by the juice bar, where Mr. Antebi greeted him, “ ’Sup Max.”
Mr. Goldberg was pleased. “They sell three of my top five organic trends of 2011 here,” Mr. Goldberg said, referring to a list he created that comprises chia seeds, farro, kale chips, palm sugar and pressed juice. He picked up a container of chia-seed pudding and made his ruling: “This stuff is going to be huge.”