A Celebration of Food: Meet Jim Watkins

Food Service Manager Jim Watkins“I like food as a way of connecting people. I like entertaining people. It’s just the foundation for good conversation and good health.” - Jim Watkins

You may have noticed how bountiful and full of color our Deli case has been lately. That’s the mark of our new Food Services Manager, Jim Watkins. Jim’s job is to curate our Deli offerings in both our Seattle store and the new Tacoma store (coming soon). He has already revolutionized the look of our Deli case in the few short months he’s been here, and he’s only getting started!

Jim grew up visiting the farms of his food-loving family in Virginia, and his attachment to food eventually led him away from his initial career in social work. “I come from a family that really celebrated food, so when I made a career change I realized that it was something I always loved, that I was really good at, and that I had a passion for.”

Jim’s culinary career led him to Seattle to be the opening chef of the innovative vegetarian restaurant Café Flora. He comes to the Co-op after having run the food service at the naturopathic medicine school Bastyr University. “I’ve only chosen jobs where I can work with great ingredients, and where the people that I’ve worked with also have that same kind of vision and mission about food.”

Central Co-op was the natural next step on his journey, one that he had been considering for a while. “I’ve always shopped here. I’ve been a member for 27 years. In the back of my mind I thought that someday I’m going to get a job there and see if I can contribute my passion and expertise to the Deli.”

He is already making that contribution, creating delicious new recipes, expanding the variety of proteins that we use, and lending a visual flair that draws the eye. “I want people to be drawn to the Deli because the food is attractive and colorful and seasonal.”

New items include Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes, Chicken Salad with Apricot and Pecan, Chickpea Ratatouille, Edamame Succotash, Quinoa with Cashews and Cranberries, and many more.

Deli Potato Dish“People that shop here want to eat in season. They want to look in the produce department throughout the seasons and see things that they are inspired by. So I try to include those ingredients, the produce, into the Deli at that time of year. We also have an excellent Meat Department and so it’s really easy to get inspired here because you have so many great products right in front of you.”

Another one of Jim’s recent innovations has been building complete meals for two to four people, like salmon with vegetables and a Greek-style artichoke casserole. He wants people to think of the Central Co-op Deli not only when they’re looking for a delicious, healthy lunch, but also as a resource for entertaining, whether they get a protein entrée, side dishes or a whole meal. He’s also working on expanding our house-made dessert selection, starting with items like carrot cake, mixed berry pie with spelt crumble topping, and our unbeatable vegan chocolate cake.

Jim estimates it will take about six months to revise our entire menu, keeping favorites and making sure there is enough variety for people with diverse diets. Ideas on the horizon include grain and noodle bowls and soup in reusable mason jars. He aims to have enough variety and change in the menu that people are inspired to keep coming back again and again to see what’s new. It’s like a dinner party he’s throwing for the Central Co-op community.

Date: Thursday April 12, 2018

Category: In The Co-op

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