Kale Pizza’s Teachable Moment with Wellness in the Schools

It was a wake up call.   Wellness in the Schools chef Leonor Azpurua asked her 20 seventh and eighth graders which pizza they liked best on the bus home from a field trip to Harry’s Pizzeria where they had sampled among other varieties, kale.   This hearty vegetable was not chopped raw on the pizza and left alone to bomb.  It was thoughtfully combined by a chef who knew the deeply dark and sweet caramelized onions and melty fontina cheese set against the perfect dough cooked just so would set off an explosion of flavor and texture contrasts that would sell even the pickiest of eaters. This is the vegetable that they dislike the most, that they might have had a bad encounter with or just wrote off all together because of its “healthy” reputation. The results of Leonor’s survey were eye opening —  the pizza that they liked the best, with slow roasted pork and even classic cheese on the table, was kale!

From 10-12 a.m. yesterday in the Miami Design District, our McNicol Middle kids soaked in restaurant life the genuine way, as part of Michael’s role of Miami ambassador for Wellness in the Schools.  Wide-eyed and interactive, they asked questions and even listened without any food to taste to speak of until the last half hour.  There was no complaining, despite decadent smells coming from the oven.   As Harry’s became a satellite classroom for the morning, the inner workings of front and back of house were revealed.

Esther’s tiny dough mixing room with its large mixer used to be the restaurant’s office.

We began where everything begins at Michael’s neighborhood American pizzeria — the dough. Pantry cook Esther was already getting set up.  We talked about how ingredients matter especially when it’s so few of them, and how consistency does too and that’s where recipes and communication between staff in front and back of house come in.  What was so apparent to me, underpinning the experience of Esther’s world, was the respect and trust so important to highly functional teams.  Students were able to observe a dialogue at play as we all got a lesson in how to make dough. First, we made sure to get her permission to enter her (small) work space, and we closed the loop by thanking her with “high flour fives” for being so generous with her time and flexible to a change to her morning routine.  When you’re running a restaurant, it’s not a show or demonstration.  It’s the real deal of getting online with deadlines.  Doors are going to open and service commence at 11:30 a.m.  You will receive guests, so you have to be ready!

The Kale Pizza at Harry’s, with caramelized onion, chili flake, fontina, parmigiano

Many thanks to Miami Design District kitchen manager Chris Cantu and restaurant manager Katariina Cerdan for hosting us and sharing a little bit about what makes Harry’s special. And to Michael for his support of Wellness in the Schools as it enters Miami, giving of his time and expertise to such worthy, eager pupils.  Watch him tomorrow on NBC 6 at 11:50 a.m. as he demonstrates grilled octopus with chipotle glaze & crema, the dish Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink will present at CITI Taste of Tennis,  Monday, March 20th from 7-10pm at W Miami.  The charitable partner this year?  Wellness in The Schools. Purchase tickets here.  Maybe octopus needs to be next on the McNicol ingredient list!  We are also excited to visit Charles R. Drew for our first Café Day where we’ll be serving healthy salads with chef Bill Telepan and the rest of the chef troops he’s rounded up in South Florida on Tuesday, March 21.