We’re introducing you to our passionate team of experts. Today’s featured Deli crew member is Specialty Foods Supervisor, Meat Buyer, and Deli Events Assistant, Connor Valone.
MEET CONNOR VALONE
Connor Valone grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, and has his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State (Urban Studies with a minor in Political Science), where he focused his studies on race relations and sociology. Connor admits that his degree and his job aren’t closely connected, though acknowledges there’s some amount of sociology involved with traditional foodways.
His path to Ann Arbor was a slightly resistant one—Connor’s girlfriend, now wife, landed her dream job in town, but he was “hellbent on staying” in Detroit where they were living at the time. He now loves it, saying, “Ann Arbor is a perfect fit for me and my family.” (Shortly after they moved here, he took a holiday job at Zingerman’s Mail Order, where a Deli staffer picking up some holiday overtime pointed him in the direction of the Deli Specialty Foods department—the rest is history!)
When Connor’s not at work, you’ll find him cooking at home, tending to his sprawling tomato garden in the summertime, and spending as much time as possible up north with his family. He loves taking his four-month-old baby, Althea, for drives in the countryside, walks in local nature areas, and playing her records from his collection while dancing around their living room.
CONNOR AT WORK
Connor’s been with us since 2019. His quiet competence and confidence meant he was quickly promoted to Specialty Foods Supervisor, then Meat Buyer, and now Deli Events Assistant.
With three official titles, he wears a lot of hats every day, which is just the way he likes it.
With no formal culinary training, Connor says the hands-on knowledge he’s gained behind the counter is invaluable, adding:
I get immense satisfaction opening wheels of cheese, big or small (but mostly the big ones); the adrenaline & endorphin rush, which I’m not sure is normal or not, that I get while slowly and deliberately opening a clothbound cheddar, a wheel of specially selected Comté, or Parmigiano-Reggiano is addicting, and it’s a big part of the reason I clock in.
And while Connor unquestionably loves the food, his favorite part about working at the Deli is the people, both the guests and his colleagues. Connor “relishes the opportunity” to share with guests the history of Zingerman’s and how we’ve grown. And he happily fields “What do I eat this with?” questions, providing pairing suggestions that extend well beyond the usual suspects of crackers into pickled things, beverages, and seasonally appropriate produce. Connor values that he gets to laugh a lot at work, saying, “it’s an incredible stress reliever and cathartic experience that seems to lift my mood at multiple points throughout the day.” (Sounds like your ideal work environment? We’re hiring!)
5 FUN FACTS
- His dream Deli spread is a big breakfast with bagels and double-baked Farm bread from the Bakehouse, Rodger’s whitefish salad, Tracklements salmon, Broadbent bacon, over-easy Grazing Fields eggs, warm coarse-ground polenta with Italian chestnut honey, corned beef hash, and copious amounts of espresso.
- As a result of his promotions, he’s had the opportunity to travel and meet some of his culinary heroes, most notably Nancy Newsom and Allan Benton: “Shaking hands and being onsite with these folks has given me the immense privilege to bring some of the most exquisite and rare foods I can find to share with our guests at the Deli—food that I’m exceptionally proud to have sourced and sold.”
- Given #2, you might not be surprised to learn that country ham is Connor’s favorite product to tell guests about. Connor loves country ham and its long tradition so much that his wife teases him with regularity that he’s going to run away to Kentucky in hopes of becoming Nancy Newsom’s second husband.
- As a kid, he always wanted to be in the kitchen, everyone who knew him, especially his family knew he’d eventually do something with food.
- Connor began writing recipes at a very young age; his mom recently fished out a herb and feta-stuffed chicken recipe that he prepared and wrote down at the age of eight. Today, his recipes regularly appear in the Butchers Monthly box and you can also find them in the “Butcher’s Monthly Summer Lovin’” recipe booklet.