In May, we received an intriguing invitation from Farm Boy to join them in their test kitchen. This was pretty exciting, because Foodie Girlz love their stores and products. Another perk of my recent move recently is that there is one just around the corner from my house. I don’t know about you, but with a busy work schedule I find it hard to always prep meals for the week let alone the next day. I really try but it doesn’t always work out and there is at least one night of the week that I have no idea what we are having for supper until I walk into Farm Boy. The salad/hot bar are my best friends!
Farm Boy started off in Cornwall in 1981 as a 300-square-foot produce stand by Jean-Louis and Collette Bellemare. Jean-Louis’ brother Normand expanded and opened a second store in 1983. Together, the following October, they opened a Farm Boy that was 5,000 square feet. It let them expand beyond produce to dairy, deli, cheese, and an in-store bakery. Since then the company has grown to 20 stores across Ontario with locations in Ottawa, London, Kitchener, and Whitby.
Fellow Foodiegirlz, Lesia, Roxanne, and I headed over to the Farm Boy test kitchen on Walkley Road. I really didn’t know what to expect since the invitation just asked us to join them. We were warmly greeted outside by Jim (Customer Engagement Manager) and escorted to an area in the back that revealed a test kitchen with a beautifully decorated table for 10. Each place was setup with a nametag, setting, and the first course.
Our menu for the evening
We were then introduced to Farm Boy’s Executive Chef Josh Drache. Josh has been with Farm Boy for the past five years. He easily convinced us to try the appetizers, salads, and spreads that were out. They included: two chilled soups (gazpacho and sweet beet and orange), salsa, hummus, guacamole, cream cheese dips (artichoke and spinach, fig & walnut, and pimento), edamame slaw, garden quinoa salad, kale, and Moroccan carrot (this was surprisingly my favourite). While we were sampling the various salad and appetizers, Chef Drache told us more about Farm Boy operations.
On the other side of the wall from the test kitchen is their 100,000 sq. foot production facility that employs over 180 people. This is where 300 items including those for the 50-foot salad and hot bar items are prepped and shipped to stores. There’s so much going on these days that it’s a 24/7 operation. Each and every dish that comes out is made with the freshest ingredients (often sourcing items from local farmers) and with the best care. You know that kale salad that you love from the salad bar, would you believe that they massage the kale with olive oil?
We then feasted on gourmet sliders, artisan sausages and flattened chicken. The flattened chicken was probably my favourite and something that I will be adding to my dinner routine. The bones are removed except for the wings and drumsticks making this a breeze to cook in about 30 minutes. It comes in 4 different flavours: lemon pepper, mesquite, tandoori and thai. Any of these items would be perfect for a BBQ!
We learned about the products they have in their private label. The most interesting item that we discovered was their garlic flowers. Have you tried these before? If not, you must! This is a multi-purpose ingredient made with garlic flowers and fermented in oil. It’s great alternative to garlic cloves and is great for stir fry, soups, marinates. You’ve got to give this stuff a try!
During dinner, we learned so much about Farm Boy and what is stands and strives for. They take great care in the customer experience and love hearing feedback on their products. If you aren’t happy with something, let them know. If you love something, let them know! They want to make sure that each and every customer that walks through their doors is satisfied.
Executive Chef Josh Drache
Did you know that Farm Boy kitchen meals are made from scratch with the freshest ingredients and without preservatives? They also carry over 300 different cheeses, 150 fresh deli meats and over 500 fresh Ontario dairy products. Each day they have 8 varieties of soup in store with the top flavours being: curry, chicken noodle, and mushroom kale.
At the end of the evening, each guest left with a great goodie bag filled with items from Farm Boy’s private collection. Thanks to the Farm Boy team for inviting us to learn more about them, their operations, and their people.
The next highly anticipated opening is the 21st store in Westboro (317 McRae Avenue). We were told that this store would be much like the Trainyards location being a lab to test out new items. You can expect made to order pizza, sandwich/panini station, and sushi bar along with more things in this store. Shoppers will be happy to know the official opening Thursday at 8am (ribbon cutting ceremony will be at 7:45am). And, don’t worry about parking, they have you covered…underground!
We can’t wait to visit the new store!