Your Secret Chef
by Bill More
What do some of the top chefs in the world have to do with the cheese and olive bar department at our local Kroger store in North Peoria on North Lindbergh Avenue have in common? Take a further read below and you will find out soon enough.
I had the great pleasure to interview Marilyn Cordio, 59, and the Manager of the Cheese and Olive Bar department at the Kroger Lindbergh store. She has forgotten more about cheese than I will know, but I digress. Marilyn has been with Kroger for 30 years as of September 2014. She started at the store by running the cheese department at Kroger Northpoint – the predecessor store to Lindbergh. She even went to cheesemaker’s school to learn all she could about the process and the product. When the store moved and it had been confirmed that the new store would have a new and improved concept of cheese, olives, and other exciting pairings, Marilyn sought and was awarded the position.
She has not looked back since.
When Marilyn started the store mostly stocked Cheddar, Colby Jack, Muenster cheese, oh, and American, you know sandwich cheeses. Brie was something new! She now finds that the Lindbergh store caters to the most food savvy customers in the Tri-County area.
They know what they want and they buy what they want --- The Best of The Best in the world. Here is where the world-recognized chefs enter the picture. Yes, it was The Food Network, cable TV, and the ubiquitous availability of fabulous recipes that made the Kroger Lindbergh store grow, thrive, and give Marilyn the most fun she has had. When a customer comes in and asks for a specific cheese mentioned in one of these recipes Marilyn is usually able to help – by country or by recipe. 90% of her department customers are true foodies and are happy to pay for what they want, and artisan cheeses are here to stay.
Marilyn sees cheese pairing ideas as the hot trend today and on into the future.
She is now selling pickles, sausages, jams, jellies, pestos, and crackers of all types, shapes, grains and intensities, to pair with her artisan world cheeses. And she works closely with Rose in the Kroger Wine Department too. One of her happy surprises is to find the ethnic diversity and cosmopolitan nature of her customers. Central Illinois is lucky to have employers like Caterpillar, St. Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center, the University of Illinois Medical School, Bradley University, that will find the best talent from around the world to employ locally. They shop at Kroger Lindbergh !!
The most significant change is still in progress in her department. She is now selling only cheese and pairings provided by Murray Cheese of New York. The Kroger CEO had enjoyed their cheeses and other products after trying them in New York and worked diligently with their owners to offer these products at Kroger. Well, it took Kroger purchasing majority interest in Murrays to make it happen. Murrays was a small but very well respected retailer. They have 4 huge cheese caves in New York and buy cheeses from producers all around the world only to age their cheeses in Murray’s own caves under constant care and continuous cool conditions until the cheeses are just right.
The Kroger Lindbergh store is the ONLY one in Illinois that is a Murray’s Cheese department. The next closest is Indianapolis or Cincinnati.
Marilyn invites all readers to stop by and see what they have to offer. You will not be disappointed and may end up ordering a tray or box of cheeses and goodies to take home for yourself or to take along to a holiday party.