Kevin Blessing has been the Director of Food Services at Central Market for the past nine years. I called him up today to chat about how things are going at the stores just a few days before the biggest eating day of the year.
So, are you busy? Is everyone stressed out around there right now and running around barking orders? That's the interesting thing about the partners at Central Market, for them this is the big game and they're all pretty caught up in the spirit of things. And contrary to popular belief, most people are in good moods. Everyone is in the holiday spirit.
What about behind the scenes? The holidays have been planned out since mid-November all the way through New Year's Eve. It's a huge orchestrated event. Especially back in the receiving area, everyone is on tight time-lines and every day is orchestrated.
Are you all eating a lot of pie? Between our nine stores, we'll make 25,000 pies and will sell well over 10,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. We'll also have over 3,000 catering orders this week alone.
I haven't bought a thing yet for Christmas dinner, when should I come in? When the holiday is on a Monday or Tuesday, it really changes the dynamics of things. This week is huge.
Oh, so if it was on Thursday, then everyone would put off shopping until Tuesday, but as it is now, we feel like it has to be done by Friday... Exactly. But, as with any retailer, the earlier you come in during the day, the better.
What's the trickiest part of preparing fresh food for the busiest cooking day of the year? Well, things like rib roast. Do we need 10 or 100? Because we can't have those sitting around for days. And chef-prepared meals are a science in terms of when we start to cooking. And stollen. If we bake 100 on Thursday, we better make sure that's the right day.
What are shoppers looking for this year? Consumers continue to be very conscious of quality of ingredients. They want to know more about the products they're buying - more about the ingredients. The second thing is consumers are asking for unique and special items. They're looking for exclusivity.
Got any suggestions on that? This year we have salt and pepper grinders with special salts and ground peppers. There are also some great tea gift boxes. And all of the gift baskets are filled with really unique, high quality items.
So, has anyone knocked over any stacks of wine bottles yet? Wine displays are the worse. We've had entire displays get knocked over, which at first is scary because there's glass everywhere. [And it's extremely slippery - I know. Don't ask how, I just do.] But, after it's cleaned up, it's also very expensive.
Any other disasters in the stores you particularly dread during the holidays? The parking lots. My gosh. Disputes are unbelievable. People get really caught up in finding a parking spot. Tempers get very short. We really try to keep a close eye on the parking lots to make sure tempers don't flare.
How has this little cold front affected things? It's great. With cold comes spirit! Consumers react to weather here.
What are you cooking for Christmas dinner? Me?
Yep. You. A Central Market standing rib roast.
How will you cook that? I'll smoke it in a Green Egg and I'll spice it before.
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