The oldest grocery store in Washington state, Aldrich’s Market has brought local food maverick Brian Stafford on board to lead its deli team in 2018. The innovative chef and recipe developer will be revitalizing the department with new menus, prep practices, offerings and staff development.
Says Scott Rogers, the co-owner of Aldrich’s, “My wife Robin and I like to collect talent, and Brian is part of that equation. His creativity, passion, and unique expertise make him a great fit with our plans for the new year and beyond, while complementing the market’s 125-year-old tradition of serving Port Townsend. Our message to the community is that ‘good food happens here.’”
“I’ve fallen in love with Aldrich’s,” enthuses Stafford, who wants to bring more of a farmers’ market take to the local institution’s prepared foods. “After large-scale operations like Whole Foods, it’s very appealing to work in a more intimate, personable setting. Aldrich’s is unique, it’s historic, and I see terrific potential for this store in terms of mentoring the team and delivering fresh experiences for customers.”
Relatively new to the Port Townsend area, Stafford left Sacramento when he was 18, working in steelhead salmon restoration, fire rehabilitation, and trail maintenance for the national parks. He kept heading north. “I basically spent my 20s in Washington, my 30s in Oregon, and landed back here in my 40s. The Olympics were my stomping ground when I was younger. I love foraging mushrooms and wild plants. Plus, there are the rich blue waters, rich berries, nuts, seafood, dark green trees. You’ve got it all here.”
Career highlights from Stafford’s experience have included his two-year stint at the ultra-luxe Brasada Ranch resort, just outside of Bend, Oregon, where he became head chef of the two restaurants, and honed his passion for working with local farmers. Later on, he got busy developing recipes, testing them, ensuring quality control, and emphasizing seasonal produce for vegan and vegetarian cooking at Wicked Healthy and Forks Over Knives. As a result, Stafford was invited to showcase his talents at popular events, like the Pacific Northwest’s Feast Festival.
Then, in 2009, Portland’s Whole Foods came calling. “They brought me in as a cook, Stafford explains. “I graduated to prepared foods and bakery team leader, and then head chef. I was basically running checks and balances for the whole team – managing inventory, styling food, bolstering profitability, and training, training, training. This was a big turning point for me — I became enamored of mentoring.”
An outdoors person who likes to put his hands in the dirt and “cook the food, grow the food, and educate about the food,” Stafford is also excited about providing down-the-line training at Aldrich’s. “From me, I think the deli staff will gain knowledge about and discover a passion for food appreciation, from making it and tasting it, to presenting and selling it. I can already feel how excited they are about showing me what they’ve got to offer. Scott, Robin, and I want everyone here to grow and shine.”
Rogers sums it up: “Aldrich’s really embodies all the wonderful things about how unique Port Townsend is. It’s resilient, it’s diverse, and it’s remained relevant for more than a century. I want more people to experience us as a community hub, and Brian is going to be a big part of bringing that home.”