They say that necessity is the mother of all invention, but in the case of Mark Baker’s restaurant, invention was a matter of survival. The well-known chef and restaurateur reached into his culinary bag of tricks to keep Merk Snack Bar, his popular Ottawa Street North eatery in Hamilton’s Crown Point community, afloat during the dark days of the COVID pandemic.
From movie nights in the adjacent alley (affectionately known as the “Alley-O”) and weekly pick-up meal prep to tarot card readings and DJ nights, the gregarious and community-minded father of three took it as a personal challenge to not only stay in business but keep his tight-knit team of employees working.
A pleasant off-shoot of Baker’s pandemic pivoting is the fact that a filmmaker friend decided to tag along for the ride and get a unique behind-the-scenes look at his old buddy’s innovative approach to surviving a pandemic, Merk style. The friend in question is Toronto-based director/producer Bernard Gray and the resulting documentary, titled Merk: A Covid Survival Story, is due for release any day now.
The 13-minute short film was shot over a period of a year and saw Gray, who has worked with the likes of Nike, Roots, Lego and the NBA, whittle down more than 30 hours of footage into an engaging and inspiring documentary featuring candid interviews with Baker and his incredibly loyal and passionate team. While there’s no official release date just yet, Baker plans to have a series of screenings in the “Alley-O” in the fall.