Helping out carnivores

AT WORK

Ronald "Lee" Wilt, Meat Department retail, Whole Foods Market, Baltimore

October 19, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $25,000

Age: 37

Years on job: Two

How he got started: Having grown up in the restaurant business, Wilt says his job working in the meat department at Whole Foods is a natural progression.

His family owned a few eateries in Pigtown and Brooklyn, where he started at the age of 8 washing dishes. He eventually began helping elsewhere, including cooking. When the restaurants closed in the 1980s, he went through the management-training program at McDonald's. He then moved on to various city restaurants working as a short-order cook.

"I've always worked in food," Wilt said.

He decided to take the job at Whole Foods because it offered health insurance and other benefits.

Typical day: He works five days a week from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. His days vary and weekends are part of the mix. Wilt's job entails packaging and weighing meats, which include beef, chicken and pork. He provides information to customers about the different types and cuts of meats. He also has memorized many recipes and often makes suggestions for customers.

"We have a lot of college students that are customers and have never cooked meat," Wilt said. "So we try to make them feel comfortable purchasing something they've never cooked before. My job is to answer questions."

Wilt said he's naturally outgoing and friendly, which helps when working with customers.

"They tell me if I had a TV show, they would watch it."

He oversees stocking the meats and making sure prices are up to date. He takes care of any special requests from customers and estimates he serves about 30 customers a day.

Favorite recipe : Panamanian Steak, a chuck eye marinated in vinegar for 15 minutes, then fried well-done. Wilt says to add tomato sauce, soy sauce, red wine (or beef broth), green peppers and onion strips to the steak and cook for 15 minutes.

The good: The interaction with customers and fellow employees.

"You become familiar with them because they're here two or three times a week. You ask them how they're doing, and it always makes me feel good when they walk away with a smile."

The bad: "The shoplifters. That makes my day bad."

Best sellers: New York strip steak, specialty burgers and kabobs.

His favorite: Flank steaks stuffed with items such as asparagus and blue cheese or spinach, feta and pine nuts.

Benefits: Employees receive 20 percent off any purchases.

Philosophy on the job: "Every day is a new challenge. Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated yourself."

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