Supermarket Boasts a Cooking Coach

Articles
July 07, 2011

Supermarket Boasts a Cooking Coach

We take a look at another industry innovation being tested by Whole Foods - the idea of an in-store cooking coach.

Have you ever seen an ingredient and really wanted to try it but had no clue how to use it? The help of a cooking coach is a dream come true for many shoppers - and imagine a cooking coach right in your local supermarket.
 
Whole Foods supermarket is doing just that, and they have hired a “cooking coach” to help shoppers really shop the entire store, and on top of that to teach them what to do with the purchases when they get home. The Lempert Report interviewed the cooking coach, Michael Kiss, who is a trained chef and Whole Foods’ first cooking coach at the Rockville Maryland store.
 
TLR: Michael, the Rockville store is a great location in a great neighborhood to test out the concept. Some might say your job is just like the one-on-one experience of an Apple Genius Bar without having to make an appointment. Share with us what your typical day is like?
 
MK: It's great to get to go to work every day. I do stand at a table just like at the Apple Genius Bar, and I really do get to talk to at least 100 people every day. And make cooking something accessible and useful for the customers
 
TLR: What are the most common questions your shoppers have?  
 
MK: What is quinoa? What is faro? You know, it’s the ingredient they’ve heard about on the food network or other cooking show or blog. It’s the hot thing in their mind, and they want to know how to cook it without using the 47 different ingredients you usually see in the common cooking show.
 
TLR: Are customers visiting the store more now because you're there and they know you can help them?
 
MK: Yes, now we’ve been open a few months, and I have repeat customers telling me about their cooking successes and new dishes they have tried. It almost brings a tear to my eye, because they bring in pictures as if the dish was their child! It’s really changing people's lives one meal at a time, and more people are starting to use their kitchens again.
 
TLR: This is very exciting and very cutting edge. What advice do you have for other supermarkets in other areas of the country that do not have cooking coaches? What can they learn from the experience?
 
MK: Just have the folks in your market learn about the foods they are dealing with. It's one thing to just stock the shelf, but it's another to read the label while your stocking it - just even knowing a few things the label says. A lot of times the cooking information is right on the label, and it just takes repeating the information to get customers more comfortable and confident with what they are cooking.