Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 34 of 139

PHOTO: BI-RITE 32 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com S am Mogannam worked at his family's Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco as a kid and all through high school, then left the grocery business behind to become a chef. When he was just 23 he opened his first restaurant in the city, Rendezvous du Monde. The California-Mediterranean menu ref lected what was available at the farmers' market, and that concept proved to be a blueprint when Sam and his brother, Raphael, took over Bi-Rite in 1997. Back then, it was a basic bodega with metal grates over the windows, selling a bit of fresh produce, packaged food, cigarettes, and liquor. "I re-envisioned it with a chef 's perspective," Mogannam, 49, says. After eight months of renovation, which included adding a full kitchen, Bi-Rite reopened with a staff of six. It soon became a des- tination for curated specialty items, and high-quality meat, poultry, and seafood. The prepared foods were restaurant quality, changing with the seasons. Some ingredients came from their new rooftop garden, buzzing with beehives. A neighbor let them borrow her backyard to grow organic produce. Dabbling in farming became a serious business, with the family acquiring three acres of land in Sonoma, 45 miles north of San Francisco. There, they harvest tomatoes, lettuce, hops, raspberries, squash, herbs, broccoli, kale, and beets, showcased alongside other local, organic farm products at Bi-Rite. "The whole intent of the farm is to better understand the chal- lenges of growing organically and for our staff to learn firsthand the values of being in the soil and communicating that to our guests," Mogannam says. Today, 320 employees are spread out among the f lagship market, a second Bi-Rite on Divisadero Street, the Sonoma farm, Bi-Rite Creamery Ice Cream & Baked Goods shop, and a catering division. Then there's 18 Reasons, a nonprofit, subsidized cooking school whose programming is designed to give consumers confi- dence to buy, cook, and eat good food every day. Outreach includes going to underserved neighborhoods to teach basic nutrition and cooking to kids and teens as well as adults. Through various programs, Mogannam and his team con- nect with roughly 6,000 students and community members per year. His days are so varied and rewarding, he says, "It's hard to believe it's work. Coming back to the family business is my hobby and my pleasure." CITIZENSHIP Sam Mogannam Bi-Rite Family of Businesses highlights 2018 Will open Bi-Rite Cafe in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza. 1997 Sam and Raphael Mogannam buy Bi-Rite Market, a neighborhood grocery, gut the interior, and add a full kitchen. 1998 Reopens Bi-Rite with a larger specialty section 2006 Opens Bi-Rite Creamery Ice Cream & Baked Goods. 2008 Starts 18 Reasons, a nonprofit community cooking school; plants an organic farm in Sonoma. 2015 Becomes a Certified B Corporation. 2013 Opens Bi-Rite Divisadero, the company's second market; expands catering operation.

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