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The Washington Post has a piece about Whole Foods is developing a new “cooking coach” program that is seen as part of the company’s “effort to enhance food shopping with the one-on-one experience of, say, an Apple Genius Bar. Without having to make an appointment.”

Michael Kiss, a trained chef, is the cooking coach at Whole Foods’ new store in Rockville, Maryland, and he “spends five days a week engaging people in conversations about food. He tells them what farro is, how to pick the right dried chili peppers and which meat substitutes work best for stuffed artichokes. He directs them to the row of reference books on his work table: “Veganomicon,” “How to Cook Everything,” “Spice and Herb Bible,” among others. He wears an apron, not a chef’s coat. He listens, nods, answers lots of questions and jots things down for customers on a special prescription pad.

“What he doesn’t do is cook for them or spear samples with toothpicks.”
KC's View:

Here’s the best paragraph from the story, the one that points out the real challenge and opportunity:

These days, the dialogue about what we should be eating grows louder but not so clear. There are more choices, and caveats, in every corner of the supermarket. We want food that’s healthful, and we’re realizing that preparing it ourselves is key. But that doesn’t mean all of us know where to start.

The dialogue is loud, but not so clear. Which is why people buy cookbooks and watch the Food Network, but don’t really cook at home so much. People are not converting the dialogue into action.

Since the first Apple Store opened, I can remember saying that supermarkets ought to have the equivalent of that retailer’s Genius Bars - places where customers can go to get suggestions, recommendations and instruction. Places that demystify cooking, and that raise eating beyond the lowest common denominator.

The shame is that too many retailers think that Whole Foods is the only kind of place that can do this. Which strikes me as nonsense.