When Restaurant News published the 2012 top trending foods, locally sourced meats ranked as the number one trend, but number two is the
trend that keeps Bibi Mahieu on her toes.
It’s her job as Jordano’s Produce Buyer/Merchandising Manager to work in balance with Mother Nature, meeting the fresh produce needs of
Southern California’s restaurants.
Truth be told, Mother Nature is more in control than Mahieu prefers. Every freeze, dry spell, blight or storm wrecks havoc with the buying game, but it’s where her 30 years of experience pays off.
“Price, quality and availability are different every day. At Jordano’s we purchase as needed because the life span of perishable goods is short,” says Mahieu. “It’s like a balancing act because you are always walking a fine line to buy the best quality at the best price.”
A growing trend driven by consumers is a demand for more locally grown products, whether or not they are organic. Mahieu sees a general desire among consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and Jordano’s steps up to that trend.
“We’re lucky to be located here because we can get most of our produce locally, all from our own backyard, so to speak,” says Mahieu. “A lot of
growers are within 50 miles of our warehouse. Often our trucks are waiting in the fields for the produce to finally be picked; it’s that fresh.”
All other produce is picked up daily at the crack of dawn from the Los Angeles Produce Market in a designated refrigerated produce truck by veteran driver, Mitch Cokeley.
Mahieu says she takes cues from what chefs are preparing today; those chefs often get their inspiration from the local trends at farmer’s markets,
gourmet magazines and television food shows.
“You always have those chefs who are taking more avant-garde approaches to cooking today and those methods demand specific items and
produce,” says Mahieu. “We’re delivering more new items like quinoa, acai, edamame and heirloom vegetables.”
Overseeing the Produce Department, Director of Operations, Dennis Merchant, understands the challenges of perishable products. It’s all about
keeping the inventory properly rotated.
For Merchant, it means a sophisticated warehouse management system that codes bins by priority or level of perishing with a license plate. By simply
scanning the bin’s license plate Merchant’s teams ensure freshness.
Recent upgrades allowed Jordano’s to double the size of their cooler to 22,000 square feet - which means more fresh produce delivered to your door.
Sharing the Facts
It’s more than getting fruits and veggies from Point A to point B. Mahieu says she believes restaurant owners and operators need to know more.
“I want them to know what’s available, what’s happening in the markets and how to deliver freshness without overspending,” says Mahieu because she genuinely understands that budgets are tight and spending today has to be smarter.
That’s why she generates a weekly commodity flyer for owners sharing nutritional values of certain fruits and veggies, relaying industry trends and warning of price spikes.
“We warn them to steer away from certain produce and consider swapping in something else until the prices settle down. Our goal is to keep that information as current as possible,” Mahieu says, then adds “but one rainfall, one freeze or one heat wave can change all of that very quickly.”
Studying the weather, markets and shipments, Mahieu is mastering the commodity game where a satisfying check mate to Mother Nature means restaurants like yours win.