Ben Salmon, owner of South Orange, NJ-based Kitchen a la Mode, has been a staple in the gourmet industry for a decade, as the store is gearing up to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.
Additionally, Salmon has spent time learning from others in the industry, mentoring newcomers and hosting several GC Buying Group seminars in order to help create and foster a collaborative environment within the independent market.
GOURMET INSIDER® recently spoke to the independent gourmet housewares storeowner about what he does when holiday sales aren’t what he anticipated (the answer, by the way, is true) and who he would dream of cooking with if he got the chance.
Gourmet Insider: What’s your favorite dish to cook at home?
BS: I am always improvising and making something new. I’ve pretty much never cooked the exact same thing twice. I love the challenge of utilizing what I have in the fridge and what’s on sale at the grocery store as inspiration for throwing something together. That said, I make a mean smoked pulled pork, lots of chili and there’s very little better than a thick-cut steak seared over high heat.
GI: Who is your dream sous chef?
BS: Call me crazy, but I’ll be going out of the food industry for this one: Tim Gunn, hands down. He’s precise, he’s funny, he has vision, he’s willing to work within the constraints given and he’s incredibly good at collaborative constructive criticism. We’d make perfect food together.
GI: What’s been your biggest merchandising fail?
BS: The great ramekin avalanche of 2015.
GI: What is something you felt was a long shot but turned out to be a success?
BS: SodaStream circa 2008. I was not certain it would sell well and has since turned into my number one highest grossing vendor year after year.
GI: When I’m stressed out about holiday sales I…
BS: Text Emily Cappiello. Ok, really: After the store closes, I blast 80’s music, crack open a beer and dive headfirst into merchandising.
GI: What’s the cookbook you always go back to?
BS: Ina Garten is my hero. I don’t know what I’d do without my entire Barefoot Contessa cookbook collection. They’re great inspiration for me. And I find her recipes are super versatile and make a great foundation for more complex variations.
GI: What’s your favorite comfort food from childhood?
BS: Oh, how I love me a good shepherd’s pie. Crispy-skin roast chicken as well!