Just got back from Chicago where I dropped in on a couple of our vendors (and shot some mediocre photos on my camera phone).
First up was one of our suppliers of bulk pantry goods. I have always regarded them as having top notch quality and touring through their new facility I learned a couple interesting things.
First, this is one of the most impeccable warehouses I have ever seen. It was immaculate.
Second, the quality control is uber-stringent. I checked out their labs and was struck by the extensive testing that they do on all batches of product when they come in. Depending on the product, it will go through metal detectors, scoville tests, moisture test, smell test, sizing/grading, bacteria tests, heavy metal tests and pesticide tests … not to mention excruciating visual examination. Check out this inspection line. That’s 5 sets of eyes looking through a stream of dried black trumpet mushrooms.
Finally, their traceability was on point. Not only does a “lot code” follow the product from the two ton tote all the way to the smallest packaging, but they reserve a small sample of all of their lots in case they need to go back for more elaborate testing in the event of a problem or recall. Check out this one shelf of samples. Now realize that they are 3 rows deep in that shelf and there is drawer after drawer after drawer of these samples. It was very impressive.
Next, I headed to one of our seafood purveyors. Before we started doing business with these guys a few years ago, my reaction was the same. Seafood in Chicago? Keep in mind that we have a dozen seafood suppliers, but believe it or not, some of our best internationally sourced fish comes out of Chicago. The reality of the global seafood chain is that so many species come from international markets. Chicago has a huge airport, is centrally located in the country, and has a large cadre of world class restaurants.
Of course they have excellent product. What makes these guys stand out is the way they handle and process fish. Fish freshness is all about handling and handling is all about times and temperatures. These guys know how to move product quickly and at constant temperatures appropriate to the species.
You probably don’t think to put tuna and Chicago together, but let me tell you, this fish is great.
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