Donna Tyndall on Retirement — and Great Pasta Sauce

Donna Tyndall on Retirement — and Great Pasta Sauce

Donna Tyndall is our beloved Senior Vice President of Operations. She’s contributing the “Staff Pick” this month, but when we sat down to talk about it, we found out she’s been a part of the Gelson’s family for 48 years — and she’ll be retiring in January. Of course, we couldn’t resist asking her about all that before digging into her favorite product.

“According to my mother’s story, I was almost born in the market,” she says, laughing. “My mother shopped at the Burbank store, it was late November, and Bernie Gelson was worried about her giving birth before Thanksgiving. She said, ‘Oh, no, I'll wait ‘til after Thanksgiving, I have to cook.’ And sure enough, my brother and I were born the day after Thanksgiving.”

As a child, Donna visited Gelson’s with her elementary school, and it was her very first job, so even if she wasn’t literally born here, she feels like she grew up in the stores. “It’s been the only job I've ever had,” she says. “I started out bagging groceries and then worked my way up through the stores and into management. And I've been the Senior VP of Operations for, I think, about 17 years.”

Now, she’s ready for her next adventure. “My husband retired four years ago, and he's kind of been waiting for me,” she says. “But with the pandemic, there was no way I was going to leave — I just feel a responsibility to the employees.”

She’s definitely looking forward to retirement, to traveling, golfing, and goofing around, but when we ask what she’ll miss about Gelson’s, she answers, “The people,” without pause, and admits that the thought of leaving gets her a little choked up. “I’ve made some really good friends,” she says. “To me, that's what the job is all about — helping people. So you know, I've seen people grow up from kids to responsible adults to parents. And along the way, they’ve moved up in their careers, and to me, that’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

“We’re a family,” she adds and then explains: “Bernie and Gene Gelson started Gelson’s as a family-run operation, and even as it has been sold to different companies over the years, all of us have sort of grown up in that family environment, that culture, and that's what we've worked hard to maintain. So it’s truly a family, and we’re so lucky to have it that way. Even the retirees stay in touch — I will stay in touch.”

Not surprisingly, when the conversation turns to the Staff Pick, Donna’s favorite comes from a family-run SoCal restaurant: Angelini Osteria. “For my husband and me, it’s been a go-to restaurant for special occasions for close to 20 years,” she says. “It’s just excellent Italian food and really great service.”

Five or six years ago, Gino Angelini, the restaurant’s owner and chef, told her that he was thinking of bottling its sauces for sale. “I got all excited,” Donna says, “and I told him, ‘If you do ever get around to bottling them, let me know, and I'll get you an appointment with the buying department.’ It took him a couple of years because he wanted the bottled sauces to taste just like they do in the restaurant, but he did — and now, they’re in a select few grocery stores, including Gelson’s.”

Her favorite thing on the menu there has always been the Tagliolini Limone, a house-made pasta bathed in a lemony cream sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano. “It's a cream sauce with lemon. It’s not heavy, like other cream sauces, and I’ve never seen anything like it at other Italian restaurants,” she says, “You know, it’s the one that we always have to order when we take friends to Angelini’s so they can taste it. Now it’s great — I can have this at home.”

Donna says that her husband is the cook at their house, but she can definitely open up a bottle of sauce. “I’ll buy some fresh pasta in our deli department and then it just takes a minute or two to heat up the sauce,” she says. “One of the tricks we learned from Chef Gino is to stir the sauce before you pour it out, especially if you’re not planning to use the whole jar, and then add a little of the warm pasta water to it when you heat it up — that will thin it out, so it coats the pasta. A little Parmesan, a little freshly ground black pepper, and it’s just delicious.”

It makes a nice, easy main dish, but Donna also likes it as a side with grilled chicken. “I think the key is that it's unique,” she says. “And when we've shared it with friends, they're always so surprised, ‘Wow, this is something new and different.’”