Meet the Deli Detail: Bea Thaman

Meet the Deli Detail: We’re introducing you to our passionate team of experts. Today’s featured Deli crew member is Bea Thaman, Specialty Foods Manager

Meet Bea Thaman, Specialty Foods Manager

Bea’s love of food started with sun-warmed strawberries and beefsteak tomatoes from her family’s garden in Toledo, Ohio. One of nine children, Bea learned to cook from her parents, who she says were especially talented at turning out delicious food in quantities that had to be seen to be believed.

Bea on her graduation day celebrating at the Deli

“I grew up in a family that loved to cook… I loved helping harvest vegetables to cook with that night, or just to eat sun-warmed strawberries out of our strawberry patch. One of my brothers and I would sit on the back stoop and eat entire beefsteak tomatoes like apples, and then get sprayed off with the hose after we were done because we were too messy to be let back inside,” Bea said.

In 2015, Bea moved to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan, where, appropriately, she’d go on to study Plant Biology, and to mark academic milestones with Zingerman’s meals. She said she came full circle with the Zingerman’s experience during her college years in Ann Arbor: the day she moved to Ann Arbor, she had lunch at Zingerman’s Creamery with her family and on graduation day, she celebrated her hard work with a Reuben from the Deli.

Bea at Zingerman’s

Bea started working at the Deli part time in August of 2018 while she was a student at the University of Michigan. While she had originally intended to work in agriculture as a research agronomist after she graduated, she decided to stay at the Deli full time because she was having way too much fun to leave (plus, she jokes, she couldn’t find another job that would pay her in cheese). She says her favorite things to learn on the job are the stories behind the products.

“Storytelling is a huge part of how we engage our guests in our food, for those who don’t just want to know whether the food is good, but also why it’s special. Whether it’s the story of a third-generation nomadic beekeeper in Italy or a teenaged cheesemaker in California, learning and telling stories about our food never fails to be fun and important,” she said.

She says she feels lucky to present all the hard work that our producers do to the people who will consume their food.

“It’s an incredibly fun role, and we have a huge level of trust from our producers. Every time I get to do something hands-on with our food, whether it’s cracking open a new wheel of parmigiano, slicing cured ham off the bone, making mozzarella, or slicing smoked salmon, I am working to present the hard work of our producers to the guests in the way that will be easiest and most delicious for them to consume. Plus there’s something incredibly satisfying and fun about cracking a 40-kilo wheel of parmigiano into consumable pieces,” she said.

Bea Off Duty

When she’s not manning her post at the Deli, you can find Bea spending her down time happily working in her garden, hiking, backpacking and reading. She’s not the only bookworm at the Deli, she says a number of Deli staff members are fellow readers.

“You can often find us discussing our new finds or old favorites behind the line while we slice your cheese and meat. If you have recommendations you should definitely let us know,” Bea said.

Bea’s home garden!

5 fun facts

  1. Bea worked at an agricultural extension office on Guam for a few months. “It was incredibly fun to learn about an approach to food and agriculture that was completely different than what I grew up with in the Midwest,” she said.
  2. If the Deli added a sandwich to the menu that was named after her, she’d want it to feature grilled eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, basil pesto, and goat cheese on grilled GFB.
  3. She always has at least three types of olive oil in her pantry, 4-5 types of honey, and lots and lots of spices.
  4. Her dream Deli meal includes anything that can be eaten as a picnic with friends on a beautiful Michigan summer day. “Pre-pandemic, the salad case was always full of salads made from farm-fresh produce. I would enjoy a plateful at work every day. Also anytime that Nestor, one of the amazing cooks in the kitchen, makes his black beans, saffron rice, and fried plantains, you can bet I’m ordering that,” she said.
  5. Bea plays hockey! “With enthusiasm if not necessarily skill,” she said.

Tastings with Bea!

Learn from Bea and other Deli experts by signing up for one of the Deli’s virtual events. Browse the calendar and sign up here.