A Conversation With the Produce Department’s Top Banana

With a schedule that keeps him zipping between the store and the wholesale markets, produce department manager Ziggy Kohn doesn’t have a lot of extra time for interviews. Happily, we were able to sit him down long enough to tell us what it takes to run a produce department that’s the undisputed cream of the crop.

Market toTable: Gourmet Glatt’s fruits and vegetables are so fresh and appealing, they appear to have been grown right there in the produce department. How does the store manage to offer such a variety of high-quality produce throughout the year?
Ziggy Selling top quality produce has always been a Gourmet Glatt priority. So early on, management made the decision to use its own produce buyer rather than a middle-man distributor. In this way, the store has been able to develop relationships with the best fruit and vegetable vendors in the wholesale market.
MTT Yet your prices are consistently competitive. What’s the secret there?
Ziggy Well, years of experience have definitely sharpened my negotiating skills.
Of course, it also helps that our vendors keep us informed about pricing trends, so we always know the best times to make our purchases. Thatís one of many advantages of maintaining such good working relationships with
our vendors.
Another advantage is that they keep us apprised of crop yield and market availability.  For example, a vendor will tell us when a particular product that is out-of-season in the United States becomes available from a high quality grower in another country. Or he might alert us that a worldwide shortage of a certain item is expected, so we can plan accordingly; heíll even hold stock for us so we wonít run short.
MTT  Keeping the store fully stocked all the time seems like a pretty massive undertaking. Can you briefly describe the process of getting the produce from market to store every day?
Ziggy Every evening, I walk through the department to figure out exactly what we need to purchase, from basic produce to specialty items, for the following day.  I then pass the information along to our buyer at Hunts Point Terminal in the Bronx ñ one of the largest wholesale produce markets in the world. I personally visit our vendors at Hunts Point at least once a week and am in contact with other wholesalers throughout the tri-state area on a regular basis. 
Every weekday morning, our truck pulls up in front of the store, and the new stock is inspected. Anything that doesnít meet our high standards is sent back. The fruits and vegetables that pass inspection are then sorted and displayed in their respective bins. 
At this point, we also select the produce that will be used in our popular cut-up fruit and vegetable bowls and platters. 
MTT Your pre-checked fruits and vegetable are also incredibly popular. Who actually does the checking?
Ziggy Our produce is checked by a full-time mashgiach who is an internationally respected expert in the field. At this time of year especially, we really rely on his skill and experience.
MTT  So fruits and vegetables tend to be more infested in the spring and summer months?
Ziggy Definitely. I think shoppers would be surprised to know how much produce we discard at this time of year, because our mashgiach decides a particular fruit or vegetable shipment is just too infested. And no matter the cost, if he says it’s not usable–out it goes.
MTT  Clearly, it takes a massive amount of behind-the-scenes work to run a produce department of this caliber. Do your duties also extend to dealing directly with customers?
Ziggy Of courseóand I am fortunate to have an incredible team, headed by John Hughes, to assist me in that part of my job. John has been in the business for more than thirty years; he knows everything there is to know about produce, and customers really trust him to help them make the right selections.
MTT If you had to sum up your management philosophy in just a few words, what would they be?
Ziggy Our customers expect the best selection, quality and value every single time they walk in to make a purchase. Good management means making sure they get it.
Contact Ziggy at Ziggi@gourmetglatt.com.

Ziggy’s Picks

Fruit Bowls and Platters With their sweet, delicious fruit and beautiful presentation, it’s no wonder our fruit bowls and platters are showing up at simchos and Shabbos tables all over town.  An extra bonus: Because the fruit is so fresh, the platters can be kept in the refrigerator for days.
Pre-Checked Asparagus One of the most popular spring vegetables in the country, asparagus is delicious, nutritious and–when pre-checked by our mashgiach–very easy to prepare.
Tip: Roast, steam, grill, or sauté asparagus to crisp-tender doneness (slightly springy when poked with a knife).  For a quick and flavorful Shavuos side dish, drizzle lemon juice and butter over sautéed asparagus.
Summer Grapes Throughout the winter months, grapes are imported from warmer weather countries like Chile, but in the spring and summer they are grown right here in the USA. Grown mostly in California, homegrown grapes are known for their sweetness and consistently high quality.
Tip: Moisture will cause grapes to deteriorate more quickly, so don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them. For a delicious warm weather treat, freeze grapes in a zip-lock bag.
Organic Fruits and Vegetables In response to the demand of customers who prefer their produce grown without the use of industrial/chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, we’ve been steadily increasing our selection of organic fruits and vegetables. Stop at our attractive new wagon display to check out the many high-quality, competitively priced organic items we now offer.

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