Dan Tartaglia, who made his New England debut as the executive chef of the first Wegmans in Massachusetts (Northborough), was recently named the executive chef of the new Wegmans in Chestnut Hill. He understands the need for a prepared foods resource in grocery stores for busy families and put together five tips to help shoppers navigate these departments successfully:
1. Engage the staff - Who should know the prepared foods section better than the people who work there? The staff should be knowledgeable about the dishes being offered just like the wait staff in quality restaurants. So, ask them questions about anything from ingredients used in their dishes to cooking methods to their favorite items offered. You’ll learn more about the available selection and perhaps try a dish you might not have otherwise.
2. Use your senses to inspect product freshness & quality - One of the most important attributes of a grocery store’s prepared foods section is the selection should always be fresh for guests to enjoy. When examining product freshness, always use your senses as they never lie! Take a look at the product and the packaging; it should look and smell fresh and crisp, free of stains and debris, and not look like it has been damaged or mishandled by the staff. Beware of items that have moisture bubbles on the top of the package as this is a sign the product was not cooled down enough before being packaged which can result in excess bacterial growth if left covered too long.
3. Know the dates - Pack date, sell by date, use by date. These may sound similar, but they all have different meanings that are valuable to be aware of as shelf life can vary from product to product. Items such as salads, sandwiches and sushi have a one day shelf life for quality and food safety reasons and should be consumed on the day they were produced. Items like starches, vegetables and entrées may have a longer shelf life when held properly. So what do those dates mean?
- Pack Date: This date represents the day the item was packaged and prepared.
- Sell By date: This is the last day a grocery store should have the product out on the shelf for sale.
- Use By Date- This is the last day that a product should be consumed. If it is not consumed by this date, it should be discarded.
4. Variety is the spice of life – Take into consideration the variety of items offered and quantity of items out for sale. A wide variety of items speaks to a store’s successful sales. If a prepared foods department is not moving through product, it would not be able to keep a great array of products available. Are there healthy options available to cater to guests who prefer these options? At Wegmans, most prepared foods show calorie information either on the package or at the point of sale, and dishes with ‘no gluten ingredients’ are also highlighted.
5. Cleanliness is key – Take a walk around the prepared foods department and check for general cleanliness. Look at refrigerated cases and displays for any build up or excessive dust and grime. Are the cooking areas clean and organized? A great prepared foods section in any grocery store should be treated as if it were the chef’s home kitchen; kept clean and sanitary so that you feel good about eating there or taking your food home to share with your family.
Wegmans Chestnut Hill is currently hiring for full-time positions, including those in the culinary department to work with Dan. Full-time applicants may apply online at www.wegmans.com/careers or call 1-877-WEGMANS (934-6267) for more information.
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is an 81-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, founded in 1916, is recognized as an industry leader and innovator. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 16 consecutive years. In 2013, Wegmans ranked #5 on the list.