Chili Montes of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco
We talk a lot about restaurants, probably too much!
As much as we love the luminaires who put Heritage Foods front and center on their menus, we want to sing the praises of something just a little bit closer to street level: the supermarket!
And not just any supermarket – the Bi-Rite family of markets in San Francisco is at the heart of their communities. Almost Sesame Street-like in its neighborhood friendliness, Bi-Rite remains an idyllic outpost of what an old-fashioned market should be. Customers talk to each other while waiting on line. Across the street is their legendary ice cream shop, the Bi-Rite Creamery.
Chili Montes is Meat and Seafood Buyer for the Bi-Rite family, and head of the Bi-Rite butcher program where for over twenty years he has distinguished himself not only as an educator and advocate, but as an ally, and one of our favorite guys ever to wear a white apron.
“Every month of the year in San Francisco there is some sort of food-centric holiday — except for August,” says Chili, “so for the last two years, we’ve worked with Heritage Foods on “Hog-ust,” and bring in as many breeds as we can during that month. It gives customers a chance to try them all and celebrate the differences between animals that may have been at the brink of extinction. It has been a huge conversation starter. People really get into it.
“Heritage Foods, as much as they are a business partner, they are also a facilitator in education — I have visited their famers, they’ve helped me learn what it takes to produce meat, and the difficulties and rewards of agriculture, especially on a smaller scale with farmers committed to doing things the right way — a focus on quality rather than quantity. I buy a lot of pork from Heritage, but we’ve bought turkeys, goat, steer. We also have local farmers and ranchers we support, and I spend time with them as well.
“There is a very specific consciousness in the way we converse with our guests at Bi-Rite — early on there needed to be a justification for why our product wasn’t the same price as in a chain supermarket, but once they purchase our meat and produce, the taste and the flavor speak for themselves, They just needed a connection to understand why things are a few dollars more.
“I’ve got the best job in the world. At Bi-Rite our customers reward us for the work that we put in with their support for us and what we do, and their willingness to engage in conversation, to have a dialogue with the people who produce their food – It’s amazing, especially in an age when people don’t like to talk to other people!”