Just to let you know, there are pre-opening tours on Sunday and Monday at the suggested donation of $10. Feel free to GIVE more because all the money will go to Second Harvest Food Bank and the YMCA, and dollar for dollar, Whole Foods will match the donation. Food Banks all around the USA are having a hard time right now because donations seem to be low before the holiday season. I personally support 2nd Harvest Food Bank (well, ya know I am all about the food and a food charitable org is right down my alley), so when an opportunity comes up that I get to taste food, be around food, and get to take a goodie bag with me from a food event, and it benefits a Great Food organization, I am all over it. How you can get involved with this food event for a great cause, click on the Whole Foods Market hot link above to sign up for the tour.
As I was taking the tour, Darrah, the Regional Team Leader, was talking, also a couple of other section team leaders were talking, and they all were saying things that implies that Whole Foods wants to be a contributing entity to the Nashville greater community, not just a grocery store. It was a constant in the team leaders and employee chatting that they embrace one of the 5 core values Whole Foods has, "Care about the Community and Environment." My impression was that these leaders, from far and wide, really wanted to integrate themselves personally into the community, and make the store a good steward of greater Nashville. I feel like Whole Foods will participate in charitable endeavors to benefit the greater Nashville area. Whole Foods maybe like any other market and out for profit, but Whole Foods does have a core value to give back to the community, and I believe they have already, and they will in the future.
I was also taken aback, in a good way, when I made comments of my person agenda for food shopping. Darrah and Jolie, a Nashville Team leader, were both open to listening to my comments (my wants really), they were considering my comments, and they said that my wants are already addressed (ex. salad bar will be there until closing, so when I am done at the gym at 9 pm, I got dinner), or they are in negotiations with sources.
Most people around here know I strive to cook with about 75% local ingredients. When I was down in College Grove a few weeks ago, home of Hatcher Dairy, I had already heard from the Hatcher Dairy folks that Whole Foods is sourcing local milk from the Hatchers. I jumped for joy because I love fresh local non-homogenized whole milk, and I don't have to drive 20 miles one way anymore! So, with this, I asked Darrah what Whole Foods was going to do to source locally. She assured me that they are in negotiations with at least one local cheese maker, and some veggie growers, but because the dotted line is not signed yet, she could not tell me those sources. For other local sources I may want, she told me I could always talk to Sheryl Williams, the Specialty Foods Team Leader. Judging from this tour and receptiveness of the staff so far, I really believe that the leaders will listen to my comments and questions, and they will be considered.
On the tour, as we rounded the corner to the bakery department, there were sheet pans of cookies, biscuits, breads, croissants, and pastries. Apparently Trish, the resident baker, has been testing the bakery kitchen and making baked goods to be taste tested by all who are working on getting the store open. Well, the treats were out there for us to taste too. I picked up a croissant, not expecting much. I bit into it, it was cold because it has been sitting out on the rack for a while. BUT, it was buttery, flaky, light but also sturdy enough to give the teeth something to bite into. The croissant was bite-able and not rubbery or chewy. An involuntary sentence came out of my mouth, and it was, "I can't believe this, this is better than XXXX (another bakery)!" The croissant may not be like my friend Sophie's boulangerie croissant in Paris, but this tasty treat is one step closer to that.
Whole Foods will have all the standard foods to cook with, but from a wider sourcing base than Nashville has ever seen. There are at least twice as many oil sources than at any other store in town. There will be, at least to start, a wide range of fruits and veggies that will be a wider range than any other store in Nashville. I saw a wall of baskets that will have at least 150 different specialty fruits and veggies outside of the typical carrot, lettuce and apples. I asked Darrah if Nashville is ready for that, and will people buy the "exotic" produce. She looked at me, and said "YES!" Darrah is from a really large mulit-cultural city with at least 800% more people than Nashville's population, so I am not sure if I whole heartedly agree because of our quite smaller population. I personally would love to see the variety succeed, and I will keep my fingers crossed. I would love to be able to buy more Asian and African ingredients, but only time will tell.
Whole Foods has multiple areas of the store that will be selling a lot of freshly prepared foods, like the salad bar, soup bar, pizza bar, other bars (I can't remember them all) and this bar The Grill. It is supposed to be a place where people can stop in for lunch or dinner, and get a quick fresh bite, or have it cooked and packed up to take home for a meal. The USA has embraced convenience foods, such as frozen meals, take-out, fresh pasta, etc and Whole Foods has capitalized on this way of eating. I am guessing that people want to eat good food, eat at home, but don't have the time to cook. I mean, double income, kids in activities and sports, who has time? This store is gonna help solve the problem by enabling people to do some grocery shopping while their grilled chicken and veggies dinner for the family is being cooked at The Grill. It is not like those chickens that have been sitting on the heating pad all day long, like at other stores, it is going to be fresh made and ready for families to eat, giving the illusion of a home cooked meal.
We talked about that fresh take-out concept last night. We don't like looking in sad glass food cases, with dried out slabs of stuff, with unknown time origin, and we don't buy that stuff. If we could see the ingredients, see it being made, we would love to save time and buy fresh dinners for ourselves. It is a great concept, and I have not seen this done at most any store in the USA. It is like the "fast casual" restaurant concept meets the grocery shopping world, and it is a marriage made in convenience and fresh heaven.
The last stop was the "salud" cooking class room. Salud means healthy restaurant. Whole Foods will be offering cooking classes, there will be a fee, and limited number of seats per class. So far, they don't know who they will partner with from Nashville. There was talk about having local chefs, cooks and restaurant chefs come and teach, but nothing has been set in stone yet. Maybe there could be an "eat locally" class next spring. I just cooked a great menu with soup, salad, smoked veggies, lamb and I forgot the potatoes, made of 100% local ingredients. It can be done, it can be tasty and it can feel great to eat locally.
I have high hopes for our Whole Foods. So far, every want of my personal food agenda seems to have been considered, discussed and Whole Foods has something in the works. There are even things that I did not know I wanted, they presented, and I thought that it really is what I wanted. There are concepts being built into this store that are focused on the customer wants and needs. The staff seems empowered to serve the customer the way the customer wants to be served. I am hopeful. Open already, let's get the show on the road!