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Interesting piece last week in the Chicago Tribune about chefs in the Windy City and their supermarket preferences. “What we discovered,” the Tribune wrote, “was that chefs, like the rest of us, look for good food at a good price. And if that food happens to come with a smile and a friendly chat, all the better.”

The paragraphs that stood out to us:

”Steve Chiappetti, executive chef of Le Coq in Oak Park and scion of the family-run meatpacking firm Chiappetti Lamb and Veal, loves the idea that restaurant-quality goods are now available to the public. Mention Costco, in fact, and he speaks with an appreciation that borders on reverence.

"’It's a chef's haven in a lot of ways, across the board,’ he said. ‘From the choice meats and seafood, from the lamb down to the king crab claws, it's an amazing amount of freshness that goes on in that operation.’ Chiappetti exhibited a similar enthusiasm for Trader Joe's, the Los Angeles-based specialty grocery chain with 12 Chicago-area locations, particularly the selection of cheeses and wine.”
KC's View:
We remember some years ago reading a story about a four-star chef of a Boston restaurant (we don’t remember which one) who was taken to Costco for the first time, and waxed rhapsodic about the quality of the fresh food there – especially because it was as good or better than what he was getting from his distributor and at a fraction of the cost.

One of the things that Costco has successfully done, despite the fact that it sells so many things, is embrace the food culture – through selection, through sampling, and through constant innovation tied to the “treasure hunt” experience. And while it is done on a much smaller and more focused scale, that’s also what Trader Joe’s does extraordinarily well.

So well by both chains, in fact, that you have to wonder why more food retailers don’t see the competitive wisdom of trying to do some of the same things.