When a chef or restaurant serves the freshest produce and herbs that have been handled properly, they are sending a message of care and dedication to their customers.
By prioritizing the use of fresh ingredients, they show a commitment to providing high-quality and flavorful dishes. The proper handling of these ingredients demonstrates a focus on food safety, ensuring that customers can enjoy their meal without any worries. This approach conveys the restaurant’s desire to offer a delightful dining experience, where guests can savor the natural flavors and goodness of the ingredients used in their dishes.
Produce industry veteran Julio Garcia knew there simply had to be a better way to accomplish that goal of safe and savory fare. With that, he has combined forces with a team of produce and herb professionals to launch the Produce Experience. With partners and co-founders Manny Concepcion, David Jaramillo, Juanita Bermudez and Phil Bartocci, they have found the perfect home to house their very special mission.
Produce Experience’s home in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, offers the industry’s most efficient SQF certified produce and herb prep facility. The team has combined its decades of knowledge of shopping the globe for the highest quality produce and herbs with state-of-the-art handling and processing techniques to create great-tasting produce and herbs for restaurants and foodservice operators in Metro New York.
The company was born from a desire to ensure hygiene and freshness obstacles that were created by the way produce is currently processed and distributed. “We asked ourselves, how could we turn those wrongs into rights?” said Garcia, Produce Experience’s Director of Marketing and Business Development. Because of the perishable nature of fresh produce and the fact that it is usually shipped in from elsewhere, it isn’t uncommon for shipments to come in late and for the produce to be sub-par.
“In the produce industry,” Garcia said, “you’re expected to have to deal with bad produce and bad communication. We decided we weren’t going to be this way. We wanted to be straightforward, honest, and focus on building the relationships with our customers, growers and shippers.”
That same concern was brought to how the Produce Experience has built their processing team in their Bronx facility. “First is the most important thing—when the team is happy, the customers are happy. We have a lot of local women working for us, so we tried worked within their schedules so that they can focus on helping us to provide the highest quality product,” added Phil Bartocci, CFO.
That concern for their team began from day one in July of 2022. They made the safety of their team a priority, providing take-home COVID tests and sick pay, and this hasn’t gone away. With that has come a team committed to optimum safety standards. that still operates with this level of safety standards.
“In the produce industry, cross-contamination in the warehouse is very possible. We are grateful for the safety measures our crew have adhered to. So, if an Anniversary BBQ for our team and their families is important to our staff as well as on-going training, we will take that extra step,” Bartocci continued.
Produce Experience Inc. also understands that nurturing the relationship between growers and chefs/restaurant operators is essential.
“Many growers look to us for the input, in terms of how customers react to the product,” Garcia explained. “Do they prefer their herbs to be larger or smaller? With that input, we have seen growing produce become almost an art form rather than the production of a commodity, perfected over years of research, not unlike growing the perfect grapes for wine.”
The Produce Experience Inc. team has taken their expertise and feedback to the growing community and with that launched its’ highly anticipated Celeste line of herbs.
To ensure the quality of their herbs, Produce Experience sends teams out to interface with the growers and even examine the plants themselves.
“Our own people are out in the growing regions tasting the herbs, measuring the leaves, taking pictures,” Garcia said. “To ensure freshness, our cilantro is picked in Mexico in the morning and is already at the border by the afternoon. We go to the airport three times a day. High quality is of the utmost importance to make sure that the customer uses all of the products bought; if a restaurant buys a pound of basil and has to throw half of it away, they’ve now essentially paid double for half a pound of basil.”
For this reason, Produce Experience is incredibly careful about the produce they choose to pick and the growers they choose to partner with.
Produce Experience Inc. isn’t just a distributor—they offer consultations for chefs and restaurant owners as well. “Our goal is to work closely with chefs to provide them with produce that’s in season and at the peak of flavor,” Bartocci explained. “We bring that unique expertise to the chef that while most produce is available year-round, a particular herb or produce many not at the height of its flavor. With that our goal is to help that chef or buyer build a menu that features fresh produce throughout the year.”
Produce Experience recommends that, with supply chain issues easing, it is time for operators to reset their herb and produce sourcing priorities. “It’s time to call your existing distributor and ask to see their SQF certification,” Garcia concluded. “But the real issue is calling the Produce Experience team to update your menu plan to be able to add “fresh” to their signature dishes, that keeps customers coming back.”
For more info on the Produce Experience portfolio of fresh herbs and produce or help with menu planning, ask your current supplier, or contact Produce Experience directly on their website or via phone at 929-614-6113.