Fortune's Best Companies #5: Nugget Market

Nugget MarketI worked for Nugget Market from 1999- 2004 and am not surprised that it was chosen as one of America's Best Companies. I was in the Deli, the Bakery, and the Wine departments, and in my experience as a Nugget Market employee, I learned the value of teamwork, customer service and product knowledge. I was privileged to be given the highest education in food service, as well as a broad knowledge of the cultural origins of foods, wines and traditions.

As an employee of Nugget, you are put through a series of trainings and seminars. One such seminar is called Nugget University. At Nugget University, you are taken through lectures, fun exercises and valuable education. One of the most important things you are infused with is excellent customer-service skills. These skills are universal and unlimited in use. They can be applied to every aspect of life and career, not limited to the grocery industry.

Nugget is proud of their international products and cuisine. Consequently, each employee is taken through the cultural identity of the products they are handling and selling. The sales techniques that employees use are not hype, for the employees truly love and take pride in the foods and products they sell. Nugget allows the employee to sample and prepare foods to develop a full working knowledge of the products.

Working in the Bakery made me feel a part of something nurturing and warm. Sharing breads from around the world gave me a feeling of global unity. The smells and textures are a tangible expression of that feeling. Sharing the history of breads and their traditional uses was a very special interaction with my guests. At Nugget, you are taught to make each customer feel like a guest in your home. You are encouraged to make each interaction an intimate conversation with that guest. This makes the customer feel like the only customer in the store for that moment.

My favorite time at Nugget was spent in the Wine Department. As a learning steward, I was taught by the best people that Nugget employs. I was privileged to work with two gentleman who took absolute pride in their wines. Their passion for everything from the soils in which the grapes were grown to the glass on the table was contagious. Their love for the art on the wine labels and the history of the wineries was as intoxicating as the wine itself! I was able to taste wines I had never heard of before. I experienced the pleasures of wines ranging from a 30-year-old Tawny Port that left me with the taste of a honeyed flan on my palate to the smoky ocean-breeze aroma of a fabulous Sonoma Coast Cabernet wafting from my glass. As a student of wine, you are taught pairings with foods, color, texture and palate development. Yes, the Wine Department at Nugget Market is art in a glass.

In the Deli, I was allowed the extreme treat of experimenting with preparing of a variety of foods. I was encouraged to make suggestions to chefs as well as guests. From African peppers filled with French goat cheese and topped with pine nuts to sliced apple and melon wrapped in prosciutto paired with a lovely Spanish cheese, the imagination is not limited as a Nugget Market employee.

Overall, my personal Nugget Market experience as an employee combined with the tools I was given through education and patience are things I have used in my daily life ever since. That is why it is great to work for Nugget; the lessons learned there never leave you, even after you move on in life.

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