Niman Ranch Asks Chef Bradley Herron Some Questions. We Are All Ears.

Brad with Chef in Iowa in September, getting the Niman Ranch slow roasted pork shoulder ready.

Although the word chef isn’t in his title, Bradley Herron embodies what it means to be a cook at The Genuine Hospitality Group. Our Director of Culinary began as line cook at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in 2009 and now oversees all the chefs and menus in the company’s 10 restaurants and Michael Schwartz Events catering.

His role is multi-faceted and providing continuity and oversight of sourcing is key — from dry and paper goods to perishable product, including a constant re-evaluation of how we can do better on quality and cost while serving Michael’s vision and culture.  It’s a tall order.  Part of this process is cultivating longstanding relationships with suppliers like Niman Ranch.  In follow up to September’s visit to Iowa for the Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner, the team posted an interview with Brad we wanted to share here — a small but important way we can recognize the person behind hard work and dedication not always visible but essential to the function and spirit of our kitchens and hospitality at the table.  We appreciate how Brad to clearly explains why things are done in certain ways versus others.  Most importantly, we count on him for his pragmatic insight on what it means to be creative as a cook — and a photo bomb or two, especially when he’s the subject!

Q&A With Chef Bradley Herron
from The Niman Ranch Blog

Q: Where did you grow up?
Southern California

Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
It’s my only career choice. I started when I was 14 and liked the way things work in the restaurant – High energy, fast pace, different every day. So, when I was a senior in high school, I had three restaurant jobs and decided to go to culinary school at the California Le Cordon Bleu to become a chef.

At Osteria in Philly, celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Q: How did you hear about Niman Ranch?
Back in southern California, my first restaurant job used Niman Ranch beef and pork. When I came to Miami, it was a name that everyone knew and it resonated with customers. When you get product from Niman it’s always great.

Q: What inspired you to care about sustainably and humanely raised beef, pork and lamb and, in turn, support family farmers?
It’s the right move and kind of the norm now. It’s about our children and our children’s children. It’s easier to do now because there is a lot more awareness, especially in California. But the quality is better and you feel better about it because it’s something you believe in while helping farmers.

2010, Slow Food Miami’s Ark of Taste Dinner

Q: Do your customers care about where you source your ingredients? Why do you think this is the case?
Yes and no. We brought Niman Ranch into one of the cruise ships we consult for and no one seemed to care. In Miami at Michael’s Genuine, our farm to table restaurants, people ask. Our reputation is built on transparent sourcing and people trust us more. If you are in California, everyone asks!

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
I get asked that question often, but I don’t have that scripted yet. We’ve been on an 80% growth rate for the last few years and opening a lot more restaurants. I see myself being in a similar environment doing similar things. For me, if I don’t like something, I’m going to change it and do something else. But I like what I’m doing and I’m going to keep doing that.

Cooking in the back of ella for a pop up dinner in 2015.

Q: What is your most memorable experience with a Niman Ranch product?
It was recent. It was when I went to the hog farmer appreciation dinner in Des Moines. I went with Chef Michael Schwartz, and at the end of the dinner, I spoke in front of everyone – all 600 people, about the importance of what the farmers do and how they raise their animals with such care and compassion. The farm tour was great and I have a lot of special memories from that weekend.

2016, getting ready to open Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz in Miami.

Q: What person would you most like to cook for?
My grandma Nana, who is no longer around. When I was young, she was always there with me cooking. I was probably around three to four years old and I have memories of her and the food we made together.

Q: What did you have for dinner last night?
It was Monday, so every Monday, religiously, I have a whole roasted chicken with sweet potatoes and a salad. It’s a staple to start the work week and it’s good to have roast chicken in the fridge. My wife doesn’t cook so I set her up with a big batch of things like brown rice or roasted vegetables on Monday night. She can fend for herself when I’m in the restaurant all week.

Q: What is your favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
The iPhone. There are so many ways that the iPhone has revolutionized cooking and everything in general. It’s an important tool nowadays. If you think about every dilemma you have in the kitchen, the iPhone can solve it. For me, if someone tells me to cook something that I’ve never cooked, I usually Google it and if you watch enough videos, you can be pretty good at cooking something the first time.

At Michael’s Genuine as TGHG executive chef.

Q: Are there any foods you don’t like?
Poorly made food. Anything can be good, but if something is poorly made, it’s always going to be bad.

Q: What do you love most about your job as a chef?
It’s hard to pick just one. I guess, being where I am now, I have a lot of younger, next generation cooks and chefs coming through the ranks. Teaching them and showing them the ropes is probably the most rewarding thing. We operate 10-11 restaurants and will open five more in the next six months, I’ve probably opened 22-23 restaurants in the last nine years. So, there are a lot of chefs and cooks that I work with. It’s a pretty cool thing to teach someone something and be able to look back and say, “I helped them do that.”

Q: If you were to open a new restaurant, what style of food would you pick?
Simple foods that change daily.

Q: If you weren’t a chef, what would you do for a living?
A farmer however cooking is all I know and all I want to do, so that’s hard.

Q: Most embarrassing cooking moment?
When I was first starting out, I think I was 15, I got a real restaurant job in a hotel with real chefs. One had me break down lobsters and asked if I knew how to do it. I didn’t, so he showed me in like 12 seconds, then he gave me 20 of them. He came back after 3 hours and I was still on the second one and it was completely butchered and a huge mess. That would probably be my most embarrassing cooking moment.

Our Black Friday Week Special: The Holiday Gift Card That Gives Back is Back!

SHOP OUR BLACK FRIDAY WEEK SPECIAL NOW!  From Thanksgiving Monday, November 19 until Cyber Monday, November 26, receive $20 in free cards for every $100 you spend*. You can purchase physical Gift Cards at our restaurants or eGift Cards which can be sent on demand in an email or text to the recipient.

It’s our way of saying thanks to you on the biggest shopping week of the year!

Stop by for the deal to Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, Amara at Paraiso, Ella Pop Café and all Harry’s Pizzeria® and Genuine Pizza® locations.  Just ask your server or stop by at your convenience.  To purchase eGift cards online, follow the gift card links on our respective restaurant websites.  You will receive promotional cards within 48 hours on links via email.  Direct links are provided below!  If you have a question about your online order contact each restaurant directly.  Thank you for holiday shopping with us!

Amara at Paraiso eGift Card
Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink eGift Card
Harry’s Pizzeria® and Genuine Pizza eGift Card (GOOD FOR ALL 5 LOCATIONS!)
Ella Pop Café eGift Card

Gift cards can not be used on the same day of purchase*

Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink’s New Northern Home Away from Home… Cleveland!

Today we are thrilled to announce in the Miami Herald that Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is coming to Cleveland.  Slated to open at The Van Aken District of Shaker Heights in April 2019, Michael and the team are working hard to make it genuine from the ground up.  With our now 12-year old Miami Design District original an enduring bastion of exciting food built on quality ingredients, the new location will focus on keeping it simple and doing what we do best – straightforward, seasonal cooking and warm hospitality. Follow the restaurant on Instagram now @michaelsgenuinecle and news related to the opening at #mgfdcle, with Michael joining the District for its Chill & Toast event on December 1, where locals can first sample a taste of what’s to come in favorites iconic to the menu. The block-style party will showcase food, drink and shopping including food and entertainment from 6-9pm.

Our space is the corner (not yet reflecting its Genuine look in the rendering) storefront to the left of Shinola Detroit.

Originally slated to be Genuine Pizza®, the notion to take the opportunity to the next level developed quickly for the space during its buildout.

“For us, the goal of any project is to realize its full potential. Working with the team on site at The Van Aken District, and getting to know the greater area, it became apparent that we wanted to do more. More for us means Michael’s Genuine,” he explains. “Genuine is our heart and soul, and exists because of community. We couldn’t be more proud or grateful to be in the position to introduce it in Shaker Heights, where stewarding this idea matters more than anything. This is what drew us in from the get-go and will continue to motivate the experience manifested there for our guests.”

Since 2007, Michael’s flagship restaurant has defined Genuine Hospitality, the special experience that results when delicious food and thoughtful service come together, designed by a team who cares about great product and making people happy.  Locals and visitors alike embrace and crave this unique approach to dining out — some may consider the restaurant a second home, a place where they’re comfortable, that they want to share with friends. An approach built on clean, vibrant flavors and what’s abundant in season from only the best sources ignites energy in the kitchen – a dynamic environment that drives creation and a tireless pursuit of quality and consistency.

“We believe in the power of a great, wholesome food to create neighborhood and that essential energy that makes a place feel irresistible and people feel comfortable,” says Jon Ratner, Principal of The Van Aken District. “Few chefs around the country do this at the level of Michael and his team and we are really happy to be able to call his namesake our home, too. The food he brings to the table is about more than simply great taste.  It’s a welcoming culture of sharing a table with purpose — a feeling we have in common at The Van Aken District and greater Shaker Heights.”

The founding principles of fresh, simple, pure permeate every aspect of the dining experience at Michael’s Genuine. Greeted at the door with a smile and oysters piled high on the raw bar, the energy of the main dining room is palpable. Action emanates from the open kitchen with its food bar stacked with fresh ingredients pulled for the line by bustling cooks, stoking the wood oven’s flames as whole fish, chicken, vegetables and pizzas fly in and out. Whether a table or cozy booth indoors under the warm glow of red lanterns or the courtyard, there’s always a place to get comfortable. The welcoming bar is always a friendly choice, whether for lunch, dinner, or happy hour. Sunday Brunch features a weekly-changing menu of savory and sweet small plates. The restaurant has enjoyed ongoing media recognition from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Time magazine and has become a fixture locally on the Eater Miami 38 list of reliably exceptional places to dine.

Situated in the heart of The Van Aken District in the historic Shaker Heights community just 9 miles east of the Cleveland city center, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Cleveland will open at 3427 Tuttle Road, Shaker Heights, OH 44122 in the spring.   Inspired by the Shaker Heights spirit of quality, craftsmanship and entrepreneurialism, the Van Aken District is the kind of neighborhood one dreams of – offering a unique blend of urban and suburban lifestyles in a city deeply rooted in history, culture and diversity. Shaker Heights’ new downtown is an irresistible destination with the best in local and national retail, office spaces, contemporary apartment living, and features a variety of dining experiences including sit down restaurants, outdoor patios and a 21,000-square foot Market Hall.  To get to know the area, visit @thevanakendistrict on Instagram and thevanakendistrict.com.

Give Miami (Kale Pizza!) Day is Thursday, November 15

This time last year, Michael and Wellness in the Schools partnered with Broward County Food & Nutrition Services to introduce his Kale Pizza to the cafeteria, engaging its cooks in 10 Broward schools to train on the recipe and other new scratch-cooked dishes. With Kale Pizza set to officially launch on the line on December 3 (YES!), we are celebrating with activities to support the cause on Give Miami Day, Thursday, November 15, the largest city-wide annual day of fundraising.  Genuine Pizza will host students from McNicol Middle Magnet & STEM School in Hollywood for a pizza-making class.  Flagship Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink will also feature the Kale Pizza all day as a lunch and dinner special, with proceeds donated to Wellness in the Schools.

Chef leading a “Right on Target” cooking class last year benefitting Wellness in the Schools.

“When giving back tastes good too you know you’re doing something right and Wellness in the Schools has nailed the formula!” says Chef Schwartz. “We have so much fun working with the team locally and our Wellness in the Schools chef Leonor Azpurua. Seeing actual progress happen is not only rewarding but inspiring for me and my team at The Genuine Hospitality Group. The hard work is happening in cafeterias on a daily basis, so the little bit we can do to reach the kids by getting their hands doughy in our classroom makes it all worth it!”

Kale Pizza has been a longtime popular menu item at Harry’s Pizzeria, our original South Florida pizza joint and is now enjoyed daily at all five locations including Genuine Pizza in Aventura and Atlanta. Supporters can get involved by visiting wellnessintheschools.com where they can donate as part of Give Miami Day.

“I am blown away by the passion and dedication Chef Leonor has taken with our school and how much of an inspiration she is for the kids,” says Principal Gurreonero from McNicol Middle School. “It’s only the second year of the program, but Wellness in the Schools has earned great respect from their schools, and we’re so grateful to be involved.”

Follow along the journey behind the scenes on Instagram at @wellnessintheschools, @genuinepizza, @harryspizzeria@michaelsgenuine and @chefmschwartz, and #givemiamikalepizza.

[VIDEO] Field Report: Old Spot, New Tricks at Joyce Farms

Heritage Black Turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Is it sustainable?, you ask, head deep in today’s buzzword feedbag.  But what if we can do better than simply maintain?  Ron Joyce doesn’t just think we can, he does.  His agriculture alphabet begins with regeneration, and it is as preventative as it is progressive.  In October, we flew to American swine farm capital North Carolina (second to Iowa) to learn exactly how.  What followed was the most unconventional and scientifically surprising farm tour you just couldn’t dream up.

Knowing where our food comes from, although sometimes difficult to experience for better and worse, is essential if we are to do things better.  Being informed is absolutely the only way to be, especially in this business where the decisions we make on food sourcing affect what thousands of people a day put in their bodies.  To make good on this vision for how Michael does business, visiting suppliers is something we try to do as much as possible.  When we get an invitation like Ron’s, to enhance a trip with education, it’s impossible to pass up and something worth sharing with the next generation of cooks.  For Chef, that’s son Harry Schwartz.  From soil university and rainfall simulation, to population restoration and integration through genetic selection of heritage breeds, Dr. Alan Williams near blew off each of our thinking caps — from rooter to tooter as they say in those parts!

Me, Brad, Chef and Harry Schwartz.

The Joyce Farms approach is common sense and begins in a place all chefs can relate to.  How do we get best flavor from an animal?  The answer is simple – natural animal, not bred to be factory farmed on cheap grain and restricted conditions, begets natural flavor and nutritional value.  We last spoke with Ron for the blog about his Aberdeen Angus program.  Today we share our tour of farmer Adam Grady’s Dark Branch Farm in Kenansville, NC to see it in action.  Grady is also raising Joyce’s heritage hog of choice, the Gloucestershire Old Spot.  The timing couldn’t have been more opportune — with the area still reeling from Hurricane Florence, the flood recovery process was an object lesson all its own.

Watch and learn here, and look for more menu items to come at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink as the season changes and we continue to evolve our efforts at product sourcing as a growing business.