Developing the menu for Hannaford’s twist on a café the same way a restaurateur develops a menu —but on a mom’s schedule — gives Dorene Mills great joy.

Dorene Mills, Hannaford Kitchen Category Analyst.

“This is the original Hannaford Kitchen,” Mills says proudly, sitting at the café inside the Forest Avenue Hannaford in Portland. Over the past three years, she has overseen the Kitchen concept that has spread to New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

In addition to sushi, fresh salads and sandwiches, and a rotating menu of hot dishes, there’s a Mexican bar, pizza and stir fry. “Stir fry is my favorite,” she says, dropping raw veggies into a Chinese takeout box. She gives the box to an associate, adding that she’d like steak, an egg and spicy peanut sauce. Less than 10 minutes later, she gets her box back with a made-to-order meal inside.

Gone are the days of needing to stop somewhere for a quick bite to eat before grocery shopping — or at least that’s the goal of “grocerants” like Hannaford Kitchen.

“Everything we use, we try to pull from the store,” Mills says. “That means we can introduce customers to trendy ingredients, like cotija cheese in a Mexican street corn salad.”

Dorene’s stir-fry, after it has been cooked. (Photos by Amy Paradysz)

She’s also able to craft recipes including Taste of Inspirations® store-brand products, such as Boston Lager Barbeque Sauce, in unexpected ways. Case in point: Southern Peach Barbeque Pizza. There’s the barbeque sauce base and the Taste of Inspirations cheese blend of sharp cheddar, mozzarella and provolone topped with hand-battered fried chicken tenders, green onions and sliced peaches.

“I had colleagues say, ‘You put peaches on pizza?’ But you know what? When I brought samples to the office, that was the first pizza to go. A lot of people love it, the way the savory from the barbecue sauce balances the sweet from the peaches. That’s where I get joy — when people eat something and they love it, when we excite the senses in ways they didn’t expect.”

As stores are being remodeled, more are offering aspects of Hannaford Kitchen. The hot menu is now available in Saco, York, South Portland (Maine Mall) and in the newly remodeled Scarborough store just in time for the launch of a fresh new rotating menu. Sunday and Monday are homestyle comfort foods, Tuesday and Wednesday are Italian, Thursday is barbecue, and Friday and Saturday are Asian takeout.

“People are always looking for convenient, fresh, high-quality food,” Mills says. “And I’m able to share some of what I love about food with our customers.”

These monthly profiles are brought to you by Hannaford Supermarkets, partners with local farmers since 1883. Hannaford works with more than 800 farms and other food producers located near its stores.