Market Organics has been a presence on York Street, in the Byward Market, for nearly 30 years, its yellow on green sign beckoning those with an interest in healthy living options.
The full service natural health food store, acquired by Rainbow Foods in 2016, offers a range of local and Canadian options, and a wide selection of organic, non-GMO, allergen-friendly food items, health supplements, and body care products.
Company president Sarah Kaplan, who is a 2018 Forty Under 40 business award recipient and a mother of 3 young girls, is proud of the organization’s accomplishments including the 2017 Best of Ottawa Business (BOB) award for Best Performance in Sustainability, CHFA award for Retail Sustainability, and having been designated as a Fair Trade Workplace; the first in Ontario.
Store manager Lauren Hart heads “such a great team who are truly passionate about the brands and products we carry, and our commitment to environmental sustainability. We’re known for our trained staff who can share knowledge and healthy options.”
It is also known for its in-house created meals. The Market Organics kitchen welcomed Chef Valérie Chon seven months ago.
“I love cooking! I’m passionate about organic, fresh and high quality food. I’m dedicated to my passion — making people happy and healthy through food! All my family is in cooking. My father was a chef at a Chinese restaurant. My mother cooked for our household of 10. My sister and in-laws are all involved in kitchens and cooking.”
Following a career as a librarian, Chef Valérie, originally from Montréal, received her degree at the Institut de tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec.
With graduation came new adventures
She worked at The National Gallery of Canada, being especially proud of one event in particular. “I prepared the meals during President Obama’s visit. That was a super honour.” Preparation also meant sandwiches and light meals for journalists, security, and the Secret Service agents. “They were hungry!”
Valérie joined the University of Ottawa with another hungry lot to feed. “This was good experience because it was, again, larger volume cooking. I developed many creative skills as a result”.
Now, in her current role, she is able to focus on a smaller, tailored clientele. “Here, I plan for the week, and I work within a small, talented team. I’m interested in knowing more about my customers and what their needs are.”
Wanting to know about her customers has resulted in a Wednesday specialty. “Every Wednesday is Seniors Discount Day at the store. I make nice soup on Wednesdays because our senior customers like to take it home to enjoy later.”
And then there’s Thursday’s Action Station. During the week, the menu is a varied selection of healthy, quick choices. There are Buddha Bowls, sandwiches, salads, and baked goods. “I do all my own baking.” On Thursdays, there is a special menu item. “We’re getting better known for our Thursday meals. Our customers are coming from greater distances to enjoy our meals. That’s so nice.”
I plan our weekly menu, but I’m always flexible… The main thing is that our kitchen is seasonal, and if there are any food products in the store that are nearing their best before date, I’ll make certain that they are used in my recipe.—Chef Valérie Chon
“I plan our weekly menu, but I’m always flexible. It depends what fresh vegetables are available. The main thing is that our kitchen is seasonal, and if there are any food products in the store that are nearing their best before date, I’ll make certain that they are used in my recipe.”
“Someone recently asked for my help. She was having relatives for a visit. One of them had strict dietary restrictions. She wanted to prepare a meal that included pasta. We went around the store and selected everything that she needed to meet those needs. She returned some days later and said everything had gone well. That was nice to know.”
Her efforts are much appreciated
Julie, a Market Organics regular, was quick to sing Valérie’s praises.
“Val is a gem! She is very creative and offers something to please everyone’s tastes. What I particularly like is that she takes care of her customers. She has such a friendly personality, and is a great listener. She listens to the suggestions customers make, and makes them feel at home right from the start.”
Vanessa agrees. “Valérie is truly one of a kind! She’s so welcoming with her big smile, outgoing personality and friendly spirit. Aside from being an awesome person, she’s a very talented chef and her food is phenomenal!”
“It’s nice to know that our efforts are appreciated. And as I said before, it’s all about making people happy and healthy through food,” Valérie said, a smile on her face.
Market Organics is having a Customer Appreciate Day this Saturday October 27 from 9am-6pm. Visit them at 126 York Street, in the ByWard Market.