See the “MADE RIGHT HERE” claim on this flyer? Each Whole Foods store has a large number of items that are advertised as being made from scratch on the premises. A large percentage of those items are not, in fact, made in-house. Taking the “artisanal” bread as an example: the bread loaves are shipped to each Whole Foods store frozen in boxes. They’ve already been mostly baked, so once they reach the store in question they just get thawed out and thrown in the oven for a few more minutes. It’s not “artisanal”, it’s not “fresh”, it’s not “made right here” or any of the other buzzwords that Whole Foods uses to advertise its bakery departments. Little to nothing is actually made from scratch in the Whole Foods bakeries each day. They’ve recently faced a lawsuit about this.
In the South region, Whole Foods has a huge mass-production kitchen in Alpharetta, GA. If you shop at any Whole Foods in the South and get food off of the hot bar, off of the soup bar, out of the deli case or in pre-packaged containers in the sandwich cooler or refrigerated prepared foods wall, there’s a good chance that your food was actually made in that kitchen in Alpharetta (known as the “South Kitchen.”) The last store I worked at was 370 miles from the South Kitchen, so the food would come off the trucks in plastic bags, looking and tasting abhorrent. Since it’s a mass-production kitchen and the full emphasis is on quantity and profit rather than quality, the food coming out of South Kitchen is borderline inedible. (Anyone who got their Thanksgiving mashed potatoes from us, complained that they tasted like powdered mashed potato mix, and had us swear to you that they were made fresh from real potatoes- I’m sorry. That was a bold-faced lie. They were made in the South Kitchen from a powdered mix, shipped to us frozen in blobs, and then I had to strain the blobs off because they were so damn runny and watery.)
When I started working at one store and noticed that a lot of South Kitchen items were being labeled “made right here”, I asked the prepared foods team leader what the policy was if any customer came up and questioned whether or not the food was really made from in-house. She chuckled and said in no uncertain terms “We lie.”
Whole Foods is actively shifting large-scale policies to make their prepared foods departments get MORE of their food from the big regional kitchens (like the one in Alpharetta), make less from scratch, and have more of their operations be mass-production style (more info on this in a future post.) This is to maximize profit, and it takes a huge toll on quality. From a culinary perspective, I have never seen such a lack of quality standards than I did in each of the Whole Foods stores I encountered. So if you plan on eating anything from a Whole Foods bakery or prepared foods section, just be aware that “made fresh, in house” could very easily mean “made a few states away, a week ago.”