Chef Mike Merritt’s recipe for putting a smile on customers’ faces at Lowes Foods

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – Lowes Foods opened up its newest location in Pittsboro on June 29. I had the opportunity to talk with Chef Mike Merritt before the grand opening. Chef Mike gave us a sneak peek into what customers can expect from the new store, particularly in the bakery department.

A Culinary Kingdom

Chef Mike Merritt describes Lowes Foods as a culinary kingdom. With a team of talented chefs, category managers, and merchandisers, they strive to curate the best food items for their customers. From artisan breads to freshly baked rolls, Lowes Foods takes great pride in their bakery offerings. But what exactly sets their artisan breads apart?

The Essence of Artisan Bread

According to Chef Merritt, artisan bread at Lowes Foods embodies qualities such as hardiness, a nice bite, and great chewiness. They carefully select breads that meet these criteria to ensure customer satisfaction. Moreover, they emphasize the use of local ingredients, with an upcoming seasonal item being a sweet bread made with North Carolina sweet potatoes. Supporting local farmers and producers is a core value for Lowes Foods.

The Bakery Experience

All the icings used in their cakes are made with real butter, a testament to their commitment to quality. Unlike other grocery stores that often buy pre-made icings, Lowes Foods makes their own in-house. Each cake is meticulously decorated by their talented cake decorators, resulting in beautifully crafted creations.

Introducing the Cake Wizards

One unique feature at Lowes Foods is their “Cake Wizards.” These cake decorators are skilled in the art of transforming cakes into works of art. The bakery section boasts an array of exquisitely decorated cakes, with a special focus on square cakes. Chef Merritt explains that square cakes offer a perfect and elegant ratio of icing to cake. The even distribution of icing ensures each bite is a delectable experience. Whether it’s a birthday party or a social gathering, you can’t lose by bringing a Lowes Foods cake.

Celebrating with Special Cakes

Lowes Foods embraces various celebrations and offers cakes tailored to different occasions. During Mardi Gras, they feature king cakes and orange cakes. For paczki season, customers can indulge in paczkis filled with various fun fillings like marmalade and jelly. Lowes Foods takes joy in incorporating these cultural delights into their offerings, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.

Innovative Trends and Delicious Desserts

Lowes Foods keeps up with the latest food trends to offer customers exciting and innovative options. Chef Merritt reveals that they have introduced “Dessert Grillers,” a unique concept where customers can enjoy grilled desserts. The Dessert Grillers, such as the s’mores griller, come pre-packaged with all the necessary ingredients. Customers simply place them on their grill and indulge in warm, gooey treats without having to turn on their ovens. It’s a convenient and delicious way to end a backyard barbecue.

An Abundance of Choices

Lowes Foods ensures that they cater to everyone’s preferences and dietary needs. Chef Merritt highlights their wide selection, including sugar-free and gluten-free options. For those attending school events, Lowes Foods offers “school safe” treats that are peanut-free and individually pre-wrapped, meeting school guidelines while still delivering great flavors.

Culinary Education and Events
Lowes Foods offers a range of culinary education opportunities and events to enrich customers’ food knowledge and experiences. Cooking classes, workshops, and tastings are geared towards educating customers about different cuisines, cooking techniques, and food pairings. Special events may include chef demonstrations, wine tastings, and seasonal celebrations.

Putting a Smile on Customers’ Faces

When asked about his favorite part of working for Lowes Foods, Chef Merritt enthusiastically states that it’s the people. From the ownership to the entire team, he appreciates the fun and collaborative atmosphere. Chef Merritt finds joy in introducing people to new food experiences and witnessing their positive reactions. From trying different food trends to winning barbecue competitions, he cherishes the moments that put a smile on people’s faces.

Delighting customers

Looking ahead, Lowes Foods aims to continue surprising and delighting their customers. They plan to introduce special weekly or daily combinations and promotions, expanding on their commitment to local products and keeping up with food industry trends.

BTW, my favorite Mike Merritt line: “This isn’t a grocery store. This is entertainment. We just happen to sell groceries here.”

You can watch and/or listen to my conversation with Chef Mike Merritt on YouTube

00:04 Lowes bakery offers artisan breads and locally sourced ingredients.

  • Artisan breads have hardiness, a nice bite, and great shoe.
  • Seasonal sweet bread with sweet potatoes from North Carolina.

01:44 The Cakery makes cakes in-house and decorates them in-store, offering unique square cakes.

  • Their cakes are not frozen and are made by talented cake decorators.
  • They have a fun atmosphere with a cakewalk and unique square cakes with the perfect icing to cake ratio.

03:23 The Cakery offers beautifully decorated square cakes for any occasion.

  • The Cakery offers a variety of fillings for their egg cakes during punchki season and Mardi Gras.
  • They have a range of cakes to choose from and can accommodate last-minute orders.

05:00 Customers can make a wish using the Wishtacular bin.

  • Customers can drop their wish in the bin after trying the food.
  • The bin is not a trash can and the sources are recycled.

06:46 Lowe’s introduces dessert grillers as a quick and easy destination for desserts.

  • Dessert grillers are a unique way to drive extra business and offer a different food experience.
  • The grillers are designed to be quick and easy to make, and can be put on the grill to avoid turning on the oven.

08:25 Ready-to-make dessert kit for cookies, brownies, and chocolate

  • Kit includes all necessary ingredients
  • Can be grilled for warm dessert after a barbecue

10:25 Food and fun are at the heart of our business

  • Employees enjoy working together and with guests
  • Barbecue competitions and trying new food trends bring joy

12:10 Local restaurant offers specials on different days

  • Restaurant challenges customers to try new things, especially cheese
  • Restaurant smokes baby back ribs for 5 hours using real wood