If you’ve never walked into a Nugget Markets store, I beg of you, try it just once. There is nothing quite like walking into a store and being greeted by a case full of every cheese type you could think of, helmed by a monger who would like nothing more than to help you sample each and every one. To learn how this magical land of cheese and excellent service came to be, I tapped the company’s Director of Specialty Cheese Operations, Jeremy Patin.
JD: What is Nugget Markets’ approach to specialty cheese and how did that come to be?
Jeremy Patin: When I came to Nugget 13 years ago, I had zero knowledge about cheese. I knew you could throw it on a burger and add it into macaroni, but I really knew nothing else. My approach to learning about cheese was from a grassroots, ground-up perspective, wanting to absorb and listen to everything I can, taste everything I can, and come without any preconceived notions. 13 years later, I look at our cheese department in the same way: people are coming to us from every walk of life, from every experience, and with every flavor palate. They don't always know what they like and it can be very intimidating. I think our mongers are so good at listening to the customer, and that's the basis on which we build our business: listening to our guests, making them feel welcome, and giving them an extraordinary experience from the very moment they walk into our our shop.
JD: How would you describe the experience of shopping for specialty cheese at Nugget Markets?
JP: One of the things I love about our markets is that we have a beautiful case practically front-and-center in every single store. That way, the first thing a guest will see when they walk into our stores is a beautifully merchandised cheese cases with cheese from around the world—cheeses that are local and unique to our area and cheeses that have been curated by our members and myself to represent the region that we're in.
Then guests are greeted by our mongers. A personal interaction—that's something that again goes back to what I wanted when I was learning about cheese: to be listened to and be heard. Our goal is for them to come back and continue on this journey of cheese. That’s one of the coolest things about cheese: you can be taken anywhere around the world. You’ll be able to taste the coastal landscape in Italy or the green lush grasses in Australia. We take our guests on this journey and make cheese more than just a food item but part of a greater experience that they want to share with their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers, and then continue to encourage more people to take that journey.
JD: Looking at food trends, are there any particular movements in cheese right now that you can tell me about?
JP: Something I love about specialty cheese that ties in perfectly with the trends of transparency and sustainability right now is the purity of the ingredients in the cheeses we provide. Nugget Markets has always loved and featured simple, wholesome, and pure ingredients. I love the fact that our guests are reading labels, and we can say that we've always sold quality milk that comes from a sustainable source.
Another thing I love about our industry right now is that we're not scared of fat anymore. That used to be one of those misnomers, that you’ve got to stay away from fat. I love that we are now welcoming cheeses that are made with full fat milk, and in many cases double or triple creams that make the flavor of the cheese all the better. I love that extra permission to indulge a little bit that comes from realizing that fats are actually part of a good, balanced diet.
For more tips, tricks, and cheese-revelations from Jeremy, stick around Deli Market News for Part 2 of this exclusive Q&A.