At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were forced to shutter, grocers across the country forged partnerships with area restaurants to make their food available for grab-and-go. From H-E-B of San Antonio, Texas, selling local barbecue to Thibodeaux, La.-based Rouses Markets offering specialties from New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace, grocers were able to give local businesses a boost while also satisfying shoppers’ cravings for chef-prepared cuisine.

Other grocers, such as Healthy Living Market and Cafe (HLM), a Burlington, Vt.-based family-owned grocer, have plucked award-winning chefs from restaurant kitchens to elevate their “grocerant” concepts.

As the blurring of the line between restaurants and retail foodservice continues, these chef-forward partnerships are likely to continue well beyond the pandemic.

Most recently, AJ’s Fine Foods, part of Arizona’s Bashas’ Family of stores, teamed with six area restaurants and mixologists to celebrate the start of New Mexico Hatch Green Chile season with a #HatchAtHomeAZ Cocktail Competition.

Designed to spotlight the availability of Hatch green chiles at its stores while also getting in on the creative cocktail craze, AJ’s invited Arizona residents ages 21 and older to enter their most innovative and best-tasting cocktail creations featuring Hatch green chile peppers in the competition, held through Sept. 17.

The grand prize, valued at $1,000, features gift cards from AJ’s Fine Foods and the participating restaurants including Blue Clover Distillery, The Italian Daughter, Tarbell’s, Tucked Away Craft Kitchen & Bar, Baby Boy at The Pemberton, and The Kaz Bar. Blue Clover Distillery will feature the winning contest cocktail as a Cocktail of the Month on its menu.