With Anabel's now completely open and operational, there is a lot of work that has to happen to keep the physical store running smoothly. Enter Michael Cornette – Anabel's general manager who does the big-picture behind-the-scenes work, and a lot of the day-to-day behind-the-cash-register work.
Now a junior majoring in Applied Economics and Management (AEM), Michael joined the Anabel's team last fall as part of the operations team. Since the store was not open at that time, the three-person operations team drafted a lot of employee manuals and training materials. Today, many of those procedures have been modified as new challenges and issues within a fully-operational store have emerged. Michael's responsibilities include having to respond quickly to things in order to keep the store running smoothly; that means making sure all store volunteers are trained properly, acting as a liaison between different Anabel's teams like purchasing or finance, and being the go-to person for any operations issue.
During the first few weeks, that often meant being in the store himself when there was a gap in the schedule. Michael found himself so preoccupied with his responsibilities as general manager that he often didn't have the time to cook meals, and had to eat the stores microwavable black bean burritos. This lack-of-time aspect of food accessibility is something that's usually overlooked even within food justice discourse, but Michael was able to get a better understanding of what it's like to be a college student who has to work a lot to afford their expenses.
Apart from day-to-day tasks, a core part of Michael’s job is to facilitate communication between teams that are intimately tied to the stores operations – purchasing, public relationship, human resources, among many others. His role is two-fold - ensuring that the store runs smoothly from day to day, as well as being the overall director of the store’s big picture, long term direction.
What initially drew Michael to Anabel's was its focus on the multi-dimensional understanding of food. In high school, he saw food as more of an art form that mere human sustenance. He was captivated with the knowledge that raw ingredients could be transformed into something that seemed more than a sum of its parts.
In freshman year, his interest in food brought him to the Student Assembly Dining Services Committee, a team of students that coordinates with other food-related organizations to give Cornell Dining recommendations on ways to improve dining services with an emphasis on nutrition, sustainability, and student experience. During one of those committee meetings, some early Anabel's members attended and the group discussed the social dimension of food, which opened Michael's eyes to issues related to food equity and access.
Of Anabel's five core values (passion, inclusivity, empowerment, community, and equity), empowerment stands out to him since it inherently feeds into the others. Empowering individuals can help them become community leaders who can help empower others, creating a snowball effect of positive change that extends far beyond its beginning.
Originally, Michael entered Cornell as an Economics major. But he found that his first year was too theoretical and technical, that it lacked the social aspects of business that were increasingly important to him. In his second year, he switched to AEM and immediately liked its emphasis on collaboration, professional development, and real-world application of knowledge.
This same type of collaboration and shared passion is also what drew and kept Michael deeply engaged with Anabel's Grocery. Being part of a team and meeting people with a similar vision for Cornell is why he spends so many hours a week working for Anabel's, and always makes himself available on top of
On top of this, other extracurriculars, and schoolwork, Michael also works at Tervana Banfi Restaurant at the Statler Hotel, and occasionally enjoys treating himself to a fancy meal. Food is also about the experience of eating - to enjoy the once raw ingredients that have been transformed into a piece of art, and to do so with good company.
Next year, Michael will be doing a program in Japan to gain exposure to food systems and to better understand how people value and view food in other countries. The food system in its entirety isn't only supply chains, marketing plans, or its technical economics - it's also the social and cultural dimensions of food: understanding that food is connected to community, relationships, art, and social justice.
In the future, Michael is considering going into investment or advising, but ultimately, he wants to be able to marry his interests in business and food, while keeping the social aspects and Anabel's mission and values at the core.