Behind the scenes with Main Market Co-Op's Josh Diogo

YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo

W

hen he's looking for inspiration or a recipe ingredient, Main Market Co-Op's Josh Diogo needn't go far to find it.

"What's really cool about Main Market is if I don't have something in the kitchen, I can go to the 'store,' which is Main Market, and I just got the best ingredient I can use," says Diogo.

As deli manager, Diogo oversees specialty cheese, bakery and the meat department, as well as the grab-and-go items like the popular tofu banh mi, chicken carnitas burritos and Korean barbecue chicken. Main Market has four daily soup options, a daily breakfast and lunch hot bar, and added rice bowls since last summer's remodel.

It might sound like a lot of food to be responsible for, but that's all in a day's work for Diogo, whose prior job was for Sodexo, Gonzaga University's food purveyor. Working his way up from dishwasher, Diogo served as sous chef at Hemmingson Center, making an estimated 2,000 meals a throw with six stations and 20 cooks, he says.

His recipe for kalua pork is a scaled-down version of one he once prepared for 4,000-plus students at Gonzaga's opening barbecue, preparing 300 pounds of pork in a 40-gallon kettle lined with banana leaves and a makeshift smoker.

After nine years with Sodexo, Diogo was looking to grow his career. His wife was the cheese and beer buyer at Main Market until their first child was born, so Diogo signed on as kitchen manager.

Staffing ranges from seven to 13, says Diogo, who credits the tight-knit team with the popularity of Main Market's deli. Although the pandemic meant some adjustments, the staff has adapted, including everyone taking turns washing dishes, says Diogo.

"It's been good team building," says Diogo.

His older brother, Matt Diogo, introduced Josh to the food industry during the 2008 recession when Josh had just earned his pneumatics and hydraulics degree but found few job offers in his field. The food industry proved to be a good fit, and Matt now works with Josh at Main Market.

The kitchen is a comfortable place for the Diogo brothers, who used to help their father when he was attending culinary school. They were also influenced by their father's wife, who is Japanese and who introduced them to unusual flavor combinations like rice dumplings with pickled plum.

Although he appreciates a well-plated dish, Josh says he'd rather focus on the fundamentals and honor original recipes. Small adjustments — like using good stock instead of water, a better cut of meat or blending spices from scratch — can all elevate a rustic dish, says Diogo. "I like simple foods done well."

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