For the February 2022 issue, we sat down with Dr. Dhaval Patel of Uncommon Market to discuss what community truly means to him and the uncommon epicurean experience. For Patel, the Uncommon Market is more than a structure encompassing a variety of businesses or educational programming, it’s a way of life. Here, Patel shares how his journey led him to Beeville, Texas, why we should get to know our neighbors and more.
Kylie Cooper: I’d love for you to share a bit about the Coffee Barrel origin story and how your work in Beeville began.
Dr. Dhaval Patel: I grew up in Houston while my wife, Patricia, was raised in greater Beeville. Our vision for a “place for community” through food, beverage and impact always has been with us no matter where we lived globally. Four years ago, Patricia said, “A local coffee shop [in Beeville] is for sale. My friends want you to buy it.” Since I was traveling extensively for work then, I had never been, but by the next month, I was visiting daily. A barista asked if I was buying it, and the idea of a “place for community” came to mind. So the decision was made, and our vision since has evolved from Coffee Barrel to the bigger concept of the Uncommon Market.
KC: What is the Uncommon Market?
DDP: More than a place encompassing the businesses Coffee Barrel, Uncommon Table and Atomic Bakery, Uncommon Market is a way of life. It is a philosophy for learning and experiencing the world. Uncommon Market brings people together through unique, “uncommon” experiences. The culinary philosophy highlights fresh ingredients, bold flavors and sustainable cuisine with a farm-to-table approach while addressing community issues. Born from years of inviting friends to the table and with a passion for gastronomy, respect for cultures and love of knowledge, experiences are curated, uniting people to make a difference through our 12 community programs.
KC: A big component of your business model is about offering community programs. Why is this important, and what does it bring to the area?
DDP: Mother Teresa said, “I want you to be concerned about your neighbor. Do you know your neighbor?” Her words exemplify why we keep working. Bringing our community together through uncommon epicurean experiences means individuals know their neighbors and express concern. We create fun, exciting and uncommon approaches to change. We implement programs across the pillars of education, healthcare, economic livelihood and environment. By partnering with schools, not-for-profit organizations, businesses and governments, citizens create buzz through chef competitions, gardens, field trips, sustainability projects, cooking classes, etc. People are learning about the world, just by staying home and becoming uncommon epicureans who know their neighbors.
KC: What is the driving force behind what you do?
DDP: One word: community! Our passion is to help communities everywhere get stronger, have a voice and produce a sustainable impact. In South Texas, we are redefining the culinary ecosystem at all stages—growing, cooking, consumption and waste—through our uncommon epicurean approaches. Having lived and worked in almost 90 countries, I have learned about so many aspects of different cultures. Using this global knowledge, we curate local, healthy and diverse experiences addressing food deserts, chronic and preventable health problems, lack of sustainability practices and new cooking methods. This is why we are excited to partner with folks on this journey and make a difference.
KC: This past year, The Uncommon Market was one of 20 recipients in the country to be awarded a $50,000 grant from Chase Sapphire. What was the experience like?
DDP: Thrilling! It is an honor to be in the same league with restaurants from all over the country. When we got the phone call, I screamed, “Are you sure?” My heart was pounding. The representative said, “We know what you have done during the pandemic. Congrats.” We are so grateful to Chase Sapphire, local partners and our team members because it affirms that our vision with our very supportive community is working. It shows that you can be in a small, rural community and be transported all over the world. It has been a crazy ride since the announcement.
KC: You refer to those who interact and partner with you as “uncommon epicureans.” What does that mean?
DDP: Greek philosopher Epicurus suggested one should seek pleasure in moderation through the mind. Expanding on this idea, we added the notion of “uncommonness.” Uncommon epicureans are people wanting simple enjoyment through different, fun opportunities. They learn, share and experience life’s diversity—gastronomy, travel, culture, art, music, history, archeology, books, cooking, community programs, etc. Simply learning to make a fragrant bowl of Japanese ramen with local pork belly is an uncommon epicurean lifestyle. They attain pleasures from understanding cultures, tasting new flavors, enjoying the dish and chatting with farmers.
KC: What fresh perspective do you feel you, and The Uncommon Market, bring to the food industry?
DDP: Our social business model through Uncommon Market is “unique” for the culinary sector, especially in South Texas. We have taken an entrepreneurial business idea and integrated it with our social mission from day one through exciting, uncommon approaches that are scalable. By utilizing our garden for fresh, sustainable ingredients, building partnerships with key livestock farmers and teaching kids about tasty, delicious cuisine, we are addressing hypertension and diabetes. We are introducing ideas about global diversity, sustainability and healthy practices with non-food industry partners from sectors like energy and tourism. Even the notion of “uncommon epicureanism” in the food industry is a fresh perspective.
KC: What’s something about Beeville most people would be surprised to know?
DDP: Beeville is a great small town rich in diversity. We have a multitude of cultures represented here from India, Mexico, Columbia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Germany, China, Puerto Rico and beyond. Such diversity opens the mind for exciting uncommon epicurean experiences with food, friends and fun from all over the world at our Uncommon Table. On a side note, Beeville’s name does not originate from an overabundance of bees locally. A bit of simple research reveals the origin of the name! Be uncommon, Beeville!
KC: What does the future of the Uncommon Market look like? Any upcoming projects you’d care to share?
DDP: We are always working on the next big challenge to help our community. We are now on vision 3.0 as we evolve. This month, we are launching locally a student-driven high school recycling program, opening minds to sustainability in uncommon ways. We have outgrown our current space, so decisions are being made in that regard. New potential partners from the food, hospitality, tourism and marketing sectors are joining us to replicate our Uncommon Chef Competition in other cities to inspire students. Our social business model is serving as a template for a poverty alleviation program in Indiana. 2022 just started, but it feels like June already with so many awesome things underway!
Coffee Barrel | 401 W Corpus Christi St, Beeville, TX 78102 | 361.358.5282