New York – Duck Nuggets with Miso Butterscotch Glaze and Churros with Strawberry Ginger Coulis are just some of the high-quality fare offered by kosher supermarkets these days. As supermarkets seek ways to improve customer experience and remain relevant they are moving away from the traditional mashed potatoes and rotisserie chicken, with many hiring a team of in-house highly qualified chefs to create a true culinary experience. The past few years have seen the expansion of many new independent kosher stores, including Breadberry, Pomegranate, Gourmet Glatt, Seasons, and Evergreen. These stores are capitalizing on the heightened demand for fresh, quality ingredients and prepared foods in the kosher market boasting in-store bakeries, sushi and fresh fish counters, and delis.
Culinary Director at Pomegranate Supermarket in Brooklyn, Chef Isaac Bernstein, believes that “kosher consumers are spending more money on quality food and are willing to pay for it.” He says: “A majority of people who come into our store aren’t the adventurous types, they simply want a twist on traditional comfort food made with highest quality ingredients. So our research and development team works extremely hard to see what current food trends we can incorporate into our dishes.” For example, this past Chanukah saw the creation of a Chicken Liver Mousse Donut with Sour Cherry Glaze, which was a twist on classic foie gras. “The donut sold really well, most people loved it, both the novelty and the taste. Our aim was to develop something familiar and comforting, but maybe a little less familiar than the customer is used to.” Mr. Itkowitz and Mr. Brach of Glatt Geshmak, the in-house catering at Evergreen Supermarket in Monsey have found a similar consumer response. “Our customers aren’t looking for the latest foodie craze, they prefer homey traditional foods that are a step up,” says Mr. Itkowitz. “Our Brisket Egg Rolls are a very popular item. We took the traditional egg roll and stuffed it with pure meat to create a specialty item. When we create a new dish we usually put it on special and provide samples in-store, then wait 6-8 weeks to determine its success with our customers.”
Evergreen boasts three kitchens each with a head chef: one meat kitchen, one Chinese kitchen, and one pareve kitchen. Pomegranate has a team of three chefs working under Chef Isaac, besides for their R&D team: one dedicated to Shabbos takeout food, another for every day fare, and a third for high-end, adventurous food. These kosher superstores offer a culinary experience that is a step above fast food, but a step below restaurant cuisine. “A short rib entrée with three cheap side dishes at a restaurant will set you back minimum $45, but we offer a pound of short ribs for $50 so it is very cost effective,” explains Chef Isaac. Sesame chicken at Evergreen is priced at $11.99 a pound, while purchasing the same thing at a restaurant could have you spending double on one serving. The price of a restaurant dish takes into account not just the ingredients and kitchen labor but factors such as the ambience and wait staff, while supermarket delis provide customers with a high quality, convenient takeout option that won’t break the bank.