Would you like to meet a chef? Would you like to encounter an accomplished chef who very likely owns his or her restaurant to talk food, cooking and life?
Sounds like a come-on from a matchmaking website, doesn’t it? But today’s advice is not for the lovelorn, although the case certainly could be made that foodies are as much in love with the creators of their favorite dish as the cuisine itself.
If you are in search of the chef of your favorite Rhode Island restaurant, you might try a visit to where he or she shops.
The Rhode Island restaurant success story is all about the owner-operated restaurant. Throughout our state, over a thousand entrepreneurs turn the locks on their restaurant doors and welcome us in to enjoy their unique creations of all types. They share family recipes and signature dishes that cannot be found anywhere else. By extension, these chefs are particular about where the ingredients for these unique dishes come from. So they shop.
You’ll find a gaggle of chefs and restaurant owners from early morning through midday at Restaurant Depot in the Niantic Avenue industrial area in Cranston. We civilians can browse this warehouse but to shop there a food-business license is required for membership.
Sid Wainer & Son in New Bedford is a theme park for foodies, as well as chefs. The warehouse-wholesaler and production facility is known worldwide. According to the company’s website, Sid Wainer supplies 23,000 restaurants in North America on a daily basis. The company has a section of its facility in New Bedford called The Gourmet Outlet that is open to the public and is an attraction for its demonstrations and samples of gourmet delicacies.
Not only will you meet chefs who shop there but you may run into a chef that you know who works for Wainer. The company’s sales staff consists of trained chefs who came from stints at restaurants such as the former Davio’s in Providence. It makes sense. After all, who can relate better to a chef than another chef? This formula has proven very successful for the iconic company.
Local restaurateurs even shop for their own plates. Joe and Donna Dube, founders of Wickford Gourmet, have moved their factory outlet store back to the village from the factory complex on Ten Rod Road. The original Wickford Gourmet building at 25 West Main St. is now stocked to the rafters with restaurant-grade flatware, utensils and gadgets. The store has gained a national reputation for gift baskets over the past 30 years. (Joe even had some time in the national spotlight as the personification of the credit-union crisis in the ’80s. He was seen on the network nightly news and on front pages internationally for days on end before the era of the 24-hour cable news channels.)