Our Culinary Team
Meet Chef Kim
Cooking caught the attention of Chef Kim Alvarez at age 7, when her mother enrolled her in a department store class. Within a few years, she was reading culinary magazines and adding unusual ingredients to her mother’s grocery list. Chef Kim’s love of culinary arts hasn’t faded, and she counts herself lucky to pour her passion into Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen. She leads the hard-working Culinary Team that runs the Catering Department and Prepared Foods sections of ZFK stores in Medford, Lawnside, and Gibbstown.
“The ultimate thrill for us is to try something new and see customers snapping it up,” she said. “It’s awesome to know we made a hit.”Chef Kim’s cooking skills were heavily influenced by her Jewish background, even before she graduated from the restaurant management program at Syracuse University and the two-year chef program at the Culinary Institute of America. She married Edgar Alvarez, who is Guatemalan and also a chef, and began incorporating Latin flavors into her repertoire.
During her career that’s spanned 30-plus years, Chef Kim has worked in California restaurants and food markets, and was second-in-command at The Striped Bass and head chef at Beaujolais in Philadelphia. Those experiences developed her skills in serving fish a zillion ways and perfecting the art of French cuisine. She and Edgar also owned and operated a Latin American restaurant in Mount Airy.
“I have learned how to prepare four-star meals, and I have mastered what it means to truly take care of your guests,” Chef Kim said. “But I also understand how to guide and nurture other chefs, and how to put a great meal on the table with whatever time and ingredients are available.”
At Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen, she appreciates working side-by-side with other chefs in a supportive and friendly environment. She coaches them to try different seasonings, create new combinations, and encourages them to use their individual talents. Surrounded by a store full of fresh ingredients, Chef Kim is grateful that ZFK’s culinary staff doesn’t rely on frozen meal components – they knead yeasty dough, slice fresh vegetables, and fire-grill meats just like dedicated home cooks.
“We really enjoy developing recipes [link to the recipe page] and doing the actual kitchen work from start to finish,” she said. “Our food has a homemade feel because of all that work.”
Chef Kim is also a mom to two young adults who love cooking, so she understands the stress-relieving joy of picking up prepared foods that are equal parts delicious and high-quality. At home, this self-confessed Sriracha sauce lover admits the kitchen can be a bustling place where there might be more chefs than necessary. Family meals often take place while everyone is standing up, tasting and adjusting on the fly, and talking throughout the process.
Like Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen, it’s a hub of creativity and collaboration that produces more than mere food. “Eating should be an experience of the palate, best enjoyed with people,” according to Chef Kim. “At Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen, we’re working as a team to give you that experience.”
Chef Kim’s kitchen at home has the usual staples, plus:
- Mushroom-flavored soy sauce that imparts an earthy flavor
- Jerk spice to add a hot, spicy, uniquely Jamaican seasoning
- Coconut milk, a dairy alternative that serves up body and richness
- Badia Everything Bagel Seasoning to be sprinkled on eggs, kale, and so much more