In Belmont Market’s busy prepared food department, Chef Ginger Costa and her staff of up to 36 people take to heart one of the store’s taglines: “We’re real people making real food.” The kitchen sources the best-quality food ingredients it can, and does the seasoning and prep work on-site.
“We take so much pride and put so much work into making sure everything is just wholesome,” Costa says.
Customers are taking note, with the department bringing in about 10 percent of store sales and selling 25 gallons of soup a day year-round.
The kitchen uses some of the same ingredients that customers can find in other departments of the store, but some items, especially cuts of meat, are available only in the prepared food department. Costa notes, however, that meals she’s offered have occasionally introduced customers to new ingredients, like quinoa or farro, that are then brought into the store aisles.
The department’s menu is fairly fluid, but offers everything from tuna and egg salad to butternut lemongrass risotto.
“Even though you might see some of the same things every day, it changes every day because of demand,” Costa notes.
She additionally oversees all of the catering activity and can dictate what’s on offer in the department.
“It also gives us a chance to try new things,” she observes. “We might see something in a magazine, and we get to play with it.” When Progressive Grocer spoke with Costa, for instance, she was experimenting with a vegan stroganoff.
Belmont Market, which is owned by Jack Siravo, has been in business for more than 75 years and started as a produce stand. The prepared food department was added in 2003, but has quickly established itself as a destination.
“Belmont Market has a strong reputation locally,” Costa asserts. “You get people that come in here because of the name, and you get people coming in here because of this department.”