Chefs Source Their Food From These Semi-Secret Purveyors—and Now You Can Too
Restaurants across the country have shuttered, laying off countless workers and leaving suppliers without their wholesale clientele. To make up for lost revenue and to keep their businesses afloat, many restaurant suppliers — both wholesalers and farmers — are pivoting to the home delivery market. The shift has meant that suppliers can continue to thrive and to keep their workforce employed, and that a new population of shelter-in-place homebound cooks can access the same chef pantry as Michelin-starred kitchens.
“Our focus was restaurants, hotels, and country clubs, but as soon as we saw what was happening in Italy, we knew it was coming to New York City,” said John Magazino, Director of Category Development at The Chef’s Warehouse, which pivoted to consumer delivery in early March. The company does over $2 billion in sales in a normal year, and Magazino describes the process of pivoting to home delivery for consumers as “putting an elephant in ballet shoes.” “We had our IT team working around the clock, but we have done it,” he said.
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In addition to backend website development, The Chef’s Warehouse has also had to repackage their products, shifting to offer smaller quantities. “Consumers do not want a case of eggs, they want them by the dozen,” explained Magazino. “No one is going to need 165 lemons or potatoes. That would go to waste.”
The Chef’s Warehouse is also offering family “boxes” of proteins. A steak box might include a variety of cuts— two steaks, two fillets, and two strips, for example. A seafood box will include an assortment of fresh fish—salmon, halibut, tilefish and the like. Interestingly, the only large quantity item selling well is flour. “So many people are baking —making cookies, cakes, and sourdough breads—that we actually do get home cooks ordering 50 pound of flour.”
Overall, Magazino says the consumer demand is quite strong. “We can bring in 300 cases of an item and it goes out the door in seconds.”
Given this pivot, it seems now may be the time to skip the line and stop fretting over the wait for delivery slots on Amazon Prime and Fresh Direct. A world of farm fresh produce, sustainable seafood, pasture-raised meats, heirloom masa, and so much more is waiting for you.
The following is an evolving list (in alphabetical order) of restaurant suppliers offering home delivery across the country.
Chef’s Garden. Located in Milan, Ohio, Chef’s Garden has been serving chefs for the past 30 years. They are now offering home delivery of their sustainably grown produce, with free shipping on all home delivery vegetable boxes and no minimum delivery order. Their products ship anywhere in the US. When an order is placed, it is harvested and shipped the following day. Then depending on your location, the produce is delivered within 1-2 business days to assure freshness and quality.
The Chef’s Warehouse: This national restaurant wholesaler now offers a one stop shop for home cooks, selling meat, produce, pasta, canned and dry goods for delivery in the tri-state area, Baltimore, Washington DC, Miami, Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. There is no delivery fee for orders over $250; a $35 delivery fee is added to orders below $250.
To give back during this time, the Chef’s Warehouse is donating 10% of all online sales to a relief fund for front-line furloughed employees and other impacted members of the foodservice industry. They have also partnered with the Food Education Fund to deliver donated food to families in need throughout the city.
D'Artagnan: This beloved specialty purveyor of meats, truffles, foie gras, caviar and more is now shipping across the country, with next-day delivery. They are currently running a special on freezer items and giving customers $25 off any order over $200.
Halpern’s Meat: Halpern’s has a long history of providing restaurants and chefs with meat and seafood and is now offering home cooks a selection of meats, including burgers, steaks and chops. At the moment, Halpern’s is serving online customers nationwide with home delivery through third party services like FedEx. They are also having parking lot sales with drive-through pick up in various cities primarily in the Southeast. The announcements are made via social media. “It has been extremely well received and more than 30% are repeat customers who appreciate the high restaurant quality and at substantial cost savings to them,” said founder Howard Halpern. “We are proud to provide this service while at the same time our hero drivers make daily deliveries to hospitals, health care institutions and other facilities and help keep the perishable food supply line going.”
Harvie: This farm-to-consumer website, started by Simon Hartley, a Pittsburgh native who has been in the agricultural tech community for 15 years, connects farmers and the consumers with farm shares. Harvie has a network of dozens of farms across the country. Each week, your box is customized to your product preferences. Don't like beets? You won’t get them in your box. You’ll have a chance each week to make changes to your box and order extras if you like. Harvie also provides cooking suggestions based on your box’s contents.
The customized boxes can be delivered to a community drop-off point, or directly to your door (depending on each farmer’s distribution choices. Hartley says he has seen a welcome bump in sales over the past month. "In 15 years I've never seen anything like the last few weeks in the local food market,” said Hartley. “As restaurants close and cities shut down, the local food market is booming. Our farmer's sales at Harvie are up almost 200% in the pandemic crisis."
Luke’s Online: With all but one of their 26 shacks temporarily closed (the Portland, ME shack remains open) as a result of the pandemic, the team at Luke’s has pivoted into e-commerce, selling many of their most popular products including lobster meat with seasoning, lobster tails, lobster bisque, lobster mac and cheese, and more, directly to consumers. Since they launched a couple of weeks ago, they have also added fresh dayboat scallops and live lobster, and will continue adding more products.
Luke’s is shipping nationally throughout the continental US, and shipping costs vary depending on weight and address we're shipping to. Products will arrive two days after ordering (they do overnight shipping), with the exception of their fresh dayboat scallops, which ship once a week.
Luke’s is also allowing customers to donate lobster rolls to feed frontline healthcare workers, by adding a DIY Lobster Roll Kit to their orders. Donations are matched by Luke's to keep the frontlines well fed. The team is currently donating to Mt. Sinai West Hospital in NYC, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philly, Brooklyn Hospital Center Downtown, and Columbia University Medical Center. If you have contact information for a hospital that you would like Luke’s to donate to, who can receive shipments of perishable food, please reach out to MKTG@lukeslobster.com.
Masienda: This company, backed by Chef Rick Bayless, buys heirloom corn and beans from Mexican farmers for sale to chefs and restaurants in the US. The company is now working hard to pivot to consumers so the harvest does not go to waste. Their website offers chef-grade masa, posole, beans and nixtamal for DIY tortilla making with the family.
Sterling Caviar: Sterling, which offers farm-raised white sturgeon from Northern California, had sold mostly to chefs and restaurants pre-pandemic. The company is now trying to drive up direct to consumer sales in order to keep fish farmers employed. You’ve gotta stay home, might as well have a little caviar. Treat yourself.
Ace Endico: Family owned and operated since 1982, Ace Endico is a popular restaurant wholesaler with a large inventory of everything for the home cook—produce, dry goods, meat, dairy, fish, chicken and poultry, cheeses, canned goods, imported items, and beverages. They now offer online sales of all their restaurant products to customers in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York and in Fairfield County in Connecticut. There is a $200 minimum delivery and no added delivery fee. They guarantee delivery within three business days. Mindful of their role in the community, they have partnered with the Food Education Fund to deliver donated food to families in need throughout the city.
Baldor: Baldor has been synonymous with restaurants for decades. They are now delivering their extensive selection of groceries — dry goods, protein, dairy, farm fresh vegetables and fruits and more—to homes. There is a $250 minimum. Delivery slots are booked up a week in advance and open at 9am daily.
Pepper Pantry: Pepper Pantry was founded in October 2019 to connect independent wholesalers and restaurants. In early March, when two thirds of its restaurant clients closed, the company began making a shift, partnering with smaller wholesalers who were unable to make the pivot to consumer sales. The site is now a platform for smaller regional specialty wholesalers to do grocery delivery. Pepper serves greater New York and New Jersey, Central Boston, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Vermont. Customers can shop for a range of products, including produce, seafood, poultry, meat, produce, and a range of cleaning products. The delivery fee is $5, with each supplier setting their own delivery minimum ranging from $50-$100.
Fischer Foods: This family-owned food distributor in Rockland County has served the tri-state area since 1970. The company recently launched a home delivery service delivering to Rockland County, NY; Westchester County, NY; Monmouth County, NJ; and many towns in Fairfield County, CT; Bergen County, NJ; and Putnam County, NY, with more areas coming soon. Fischer Foods offers 2-day contactless delivery with a $200 order minimum for free delivery. The company delivers a wide variety of fresh produce, organic dairy and artisan cheeses, restaurant-quality meats and seafood, frozen items, deli foods, fresh and sliced breads, soups, plus snacks, beverages and grocery items. They offer fruit and vegetable ”Farmer’s Table” boxes as well. They also deliver cleaning supplies and household items and make weekly donations to several local food banks.
F Rozzo. This specialty fish supplier has reopened its Chelsea location (about 3 blocks north of Chelsea Market) as a retail market offering the wholesale Hunts Point seafood buying experience to home cooks on a much smaller scale. Rozzo’s catch of the day is also available on Goldbelly.
Giordano’s Produce: This Philadelphia-based distributor of produce works with fine dining restaurants, hotels, institutions, universities, companies. It has made the pivot to consumers, offering consumers a $35 “Fresh Essentials” box for home delivery. The box includes a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as eggs, milk, and butter. Local pickup and delivery is available in parts of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey.
Natoora: Natoora has been operating in New York, London and Paris for the past 15 years, selling produce to some of the world’s most exclusive restaurants. They are now offering home delivery through their app to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens with a $60 minimum order and $6 delivery fee.
Pierless: Since 1999, Long Island local Bobby Demasco of Pierless has been providing New York City chefs with unparalleled seafood. Now home cooks can get in on the catch. Tuna, halibut, fluke, tilefish and more are available online for delivery to your home. There is a $40 minimum but it offers next-day delivery in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
Primal Supply Meats: Based in Philadelphia, Primal Supply Meats is a woman-owned butchery and local sourcing company, connecting regional animal farmers to restaurants and chefs. The company is now selling directly to home cooks, offering a full range of pasture-raised beef, lamb, and poultry, as well as sausages, house-made prepared foods, seafood, produce, eggs and grocery items from other local Philly wholesalers hurt by the COVID pandemic. Orders placed by 4pm are available for next-day local home delivery (in Philadelphia) or for pickup Tuesday through Saturday at their South Philly and Brewerytown locations.
Regalis: This wholesaler, known for its luxury line of truffles, caviar, seafood, meats, and specialty pantry items like Acacia honey, is now offering delivery with orders shipping Monday through Thursday.
Riviera Produce: This Englewood, NJ-based wholesaler has long been providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the foodservice industry across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They are now offering fresh produce, eggs, and dairy boxes for home delivery through their new website Grateful Produce Box. There is a $100 minimum and a $10 delivery fee. “It doesn't replace our volume but without this we would have had to shut down and lay off 90% of our people,” said founder Ben Friedman.
The Culinary Gardener Owned by Evan Chender, a chef turned farmer, The Culinary Gardener is an Asheville-based sustainable farm that had been selling directly and only to chefs and restaurants in the Asheville and Atlanta area. With the COVID crisis, Chender has changed gears, selling his farm-fresh produce online in shares with add-on items directly to consumers for pickup at his farm or in downtown Asheville. The farm has been doing about 160 shares each week; there is no minimum order.
Keany Produce This Virginia-based produce wholesaler has created a Curbside Produce Pickup program selling fresh produce boxes filled with fruits, vegetables and dairy. Pick up is available at 13 locations throughout the DC and Richmond regions. They offer pickup 3 days per week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. At pickup, customers stay in their vehicle and provide their name to a team member who confirms their order and places it in their car, for a complete contactless transaction. There are minimum orders.
Go Cheetah: This wholesale restaurant-based app has pivoted to allow consumers to take advantage of their inventory. Sign up for the app, input your location, and shop. The app saves your shopping lists.Cheetah has set up several contactless pickup locations across the San Francisco Bay area where it uses its refrigerated trucks as mobile fulfillment centers.
Nicky USA: Founded in 1990, Nicky USA is one of the Northwest’s leading butcher and purveyor of specialty game and high-quality meat. The team pivoted after suddenly being left with a full warehouse of product when Portland's restaurants were forced to shut down, and launched their first-ever digital Fire Sale on March 19 using Facebook Events. The fire sale, which is ongoing, offers a roster of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, venison, rabbit, lamb, and more at wholesale prices to the public. Nicky USA also offers "Family Boxes" filled with a variety of meats. There are plans to continue to add and change the boxes over the coming weeks. They're even offering toilet paper. $200 minimum for delivery. Deliveries are for five mile radius around central Portland and five mile radius around central Seattle Monday through Friday. Towns located along I-5 from Portland to Eugene will be delivered Wednesday. They are also able to Fedex or UPS to any location outside of these locations. Deliveries are made the following day or two after the order is placed depending upon the distance from their location.
Rinella Produce. This family-owned Portland-based food-service provider and distribution company offers a full range of fresh produce, oils, eggs, meats, frozen and canned goods and much more. Their store is now open to the public for in-person shopping. Customers can also call ahead and order, and it will be packed and ready for contactless pick-up. They also offer delivery six days a week to local neighborhoods and cities.
Vesta Foodservice: For 32 years, Vesta Foodservice has been providing restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Phoenix with produce, protein, dry goods and more. With Governor Newsom’s Safer at Home’ order, the company has shifted its model, now offering online grocery ordering with curbside pickup for the general public at its Santa Fe Springs facility. They are currently working with a customer in Venice to offer a second location for pick up. In addition to a la carte shopping, the company is also offering $50 pantry boxes filled with fruits, vegetables and toilet paper.
Green City Market Delivered: To help local Chicago-area farmers, the nonprofit Green City Market launched a new app in partnership with WhatsGood on March 27 called Green City Market Delivered. The app functions as a virtual marketplace for local, seasonal purveyors of eggs, produce, meat, fresh cheese and more. At launch, the app featured a small test group of 15 farms — including Finn’s, Nichols Farm & Orchard, Mick Klug Farm, Ellis Family Farms, Arize Kombucha and pHlour Bakery — and allows consumers to place collective orders with participating vendors for weekly at-home delivery for a flat rate of $9.99.
Spence Farm: A collection of 50 Southern Illinois farms is now selling directly to consumers thanks to swift organizing by Spence Farms’ Marty Travis. Travis announced the cooperative’s sale in a message on Facebook to his customers, offering farm inventory to the local community. The coop’s extensive list of products includes vegetables, mushrooms, grains, flour, honey, meats, eggs, syrup, fish, and more. Pick up hours at Spence Farm are Wednesdays from 4 to 6 pm. Anyone interested in participating in this weekly offering should email Marty at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the list. “We hope that this may be a way to add some control into all of our lives during this time when things seem a bit bonkers,” wrote Travis in a Facebook post. The demand has been swift; Travis said in 16 years of farming last week was one of his best sales weeks ever. You can listen to Travis talk about farming in the age of a pandemic on the Tractor Time podcast, here.
Testa Produce, a restaurant wholesaler located in Chicago, is now offering consumers online ordering and home delivery of their farm-fresh produce.