Progressive Grocer

Grocerant December 2016

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18 SOLUTIONS DECEMBER 2016 Special culinary events that go a step beyond samplings and demos are another way to help turn a grocerant chef into something of a local celebrity. For example, a New York Wegmans chef recently went head to head with Buffalo Bills football player Eric Wood in a Chicken Wing rowdown, with proceeds benefiting a local scholarship. Shoppers could watch for free at the company's Amherst, N.Y., store, but Wegmans also sold $15 VIP tickets to customers who wanted to meet the player and eat a tailgate-style meal. Broadening the base ese kinds of chef-led events can work well as part of a broader community relations or marketing effort—to reap bigger benefits for both the store and the grocerant area, according to Raduns. "Wegmans has done an 'Iron Chef ' type of event, in which two Wegmans chefs did an hour-long chef competition in front of the produce department, using local fresh ingre- dients, complete with an unveiling of a secret ingredient," he says. e event not only attracted the notice of shoppers but also resulted in coverage by local media and artisan publications. "e point of that is outreach," says Raduns. "If you're going to do something like it, get the maximum bang for public relations, compared to something that would have 30 or so people just walking by while they're shopping." Chefs at the Bloomington Hy-Vee have capitalized on such opportunities for greater community outreach, says Cochran. "One of our chefs also has a spot on a weekly radio program and hosts a tailgate during all of the home games at Illinois State University," he says. "By being out in the community, our chefs are able to show off their skills and increase awareness about their expertise while show- casing the Hy-Vee brand." G The retail food industry is working in a broader sense to enhance opportunities with grocery store chefs: The Food Marketing Institute hosted a supermarket chefs compe- tition from 2012 to 2015 to celebrate and honor grocery culinary professionals. Each year finalists competed for the title of FMI Supermarket Chef Showdown Grand Champi- on at the annual FMI Connect meeting. Although FMI is no longer doing its yearly conference, the organization remains engaged with supermarket chefs and coordinates with retailers around the country to build part- nerships between culinary talent and sales leaders. "We'll be exploring a revival of this community in 2017," says Heather Garlich, FMI senior director for media and public relations. Supermarket chefs go national "All [our] chefs provide cooking demonstra- tions in the store." — Andrew Cochran, Bloomington (Ill.) Hy-Vee Interacting with shoppers at the counter boosts a chef's visibility. PHOTO BY VITO PALMISANO

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