Debbie Kandler, the Easton store manager, has been with Wegmans in store operations and administrative jobs for eight years. But she practically grew up with the chain: Her mother, Mary Kandler, a zone coordinator for the cheese department for Wegmans' 10-store Buffalo division, has been with the company 25 years.
During a recent visit, Kandler led the way through the produce department, the Cooks Nook - home to pots, pans and small appliances - and the One World cheese shop, which arranges its cheese by nationality and is anchored by a display case featuring creations such as pear and gruyere tarts with honey.
The cases of prepared foods, including some that can be ready in 20 minutes (and say so on labels containing preparation instructions) or microwaved in two, seem to go on endlessly.
The meat and seafood departments also have ready-to-cook sections, so shoppers can choose from, say, a haddock fillet, or a ready-to-cook shrimp, crab and vegetable-stuffed haddock fillet.
Behind the "chef's case," with fully prepared dishes such as salmon primavera and roasted vegetables, executive chef Christopher Brandt was preparing some of the 200 soups, salads and other prepared foods customers will likely find at Wegmans in a given day.
The 32-year-old chef had worked in fine dining restaurants and hotels but never in a supermarket before joining Wegmans eight months ago. He got the idea to apply after visiting two of the Wegmans stores in the Lehigh Valley area with his parents, who live in New Jersey.
"I went shopping with them and was blown away," Brandt said. Few other kitchens would offer a chef a chance at such diversity, he said. "Restaurants usually have one theme. Here, there's a lot of variety."