The Fruit of Life: Kristina’s Summer Bite of Haitian Mango Culture & Trade

Kristina Francillon took the summer off from her duties in MGFD reservations and with us branding folks at TGHG to work with mango growers and exporters in Haiti during the peak of season.  We thought it would provide a unique perspective on sourcing and agriculture to hear her story!

Happiness. That is what a mango means to a Haitian. March to August is the Francis mango season in Haiti, and adults and children alike look forward to it, eating multiple mangoes a day. My number is two per diem.  A mango could be sliced and daintily eaten with a fork, but to enjoy this tropical fruit in its true sense, you must peel it all, grab it with both hands, and take a bite as its sticky, sweet juice runs down.  Full face in!  In fact, my paternal grandmother (who was quite the lady) used to say, I will not get dirty for just one mango, I need at least two or three. Thus, bathing in your mango, if you will, is the only way to do it.

The Haitian mango does not only impact taste buds, but also the economy. The mango business supports over 50,000 Haitian families, with jobs, from the growers, to the exporters, to the street merchants. Mangoes are life around here. Although there are 140 varieties growing around the country, the francis variety is the most exported. Why is the francis mango so special, in addition to supporting Haiti’s recovering economy? Its flavor. The taste is rich and spicy and this variety has consistent flavor, unlike some others. It is also one of the juiciest mangoes there is. This is why these mangoes are so orgasmic. It drips as you eat it and no one is shamed into licking the nectar as it falls.

I have had the pleasure to intern with F&L, a mango exporting firm in the St Marc area in Haiti, approximately two hours from Port-au-Prince. The firm exports its mangoes to the US and is USDA approved. With a rigid selection process and a diverse and talented team, the company truly impacts the local economy. Mangoes are sourced from both F&L farms, and other local farmers. The fruit is naturally grown and only the highest quality mangoes are exported. They are then treated using a hot water treatment, sorted, packed and shipped in refrigerated containers to the States. The process is thoroughly supervised by a local and a USDA inspector, who are both on site, at all hours of operation. All so that you may enjoy the very best Haiti has to offer.

F&L is an affiliate of Agrotechnique SA, a company dedicated to the agricultural sector in Haiti for over 40 years. The team is local and their desire to help the country is palpable. Haiti does not grow through humanitarian aid, rather it develops through sustainable investment and exportation of local goods. This is what F&L does, and their products, mangoes in particular, are proudly showcased in major US cities like Miami, New York and Boston. Yes, Haiti is often portrayed as a country of despair, but let’s look at Haiti through another lens. Haiti = Good Mangoes.

Let’s discuss my experience. The best part: eating all the mangoes I could ever want, whole or juiced. I have never indulged this much and lost weight. This is a girl’s dream! Thus far, my work involves sales and strategy, where I help the firm improve its processes and increase its clientele. I like to think of it as an internal consultant of sorts. But I am learning so much more from this team, than I believe they are learning from me : from the mango culture, to the exportation business, to the love for Haiti. It is contagious. I have always loved Haiti, having been raised there. But working at a firm with direct impact on growers, families and the economy, has changed my view of the country as well. There is so much to be done here, and the impact of your work will be visible. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to make a difference.

At the Genuine Hospitality Group restaurants, the farm to table approach is vital. And TGHG has taught me the value of careful sourcing and of supporting growers. This is why I value the work of Haitian mango growers, and of firms such as F&L, who create work for these farmers, and distributors, through exportation. I have always loved the Francis mango, but now the fruit means so much more. Mango is now life to me.

Night & Day: Action on the Avenue Happens in a Harry

Harry's at Night

Harry’s got that glow.


Alfresco! Lunch today, fueling up for a busy South Beach Wine & Food Festival Weekend

A full house. Old school hip hop is in the air. Beanies and leather jackets everywhere.  The fun kids are hanging out and sharing a meal and a laugh.  There’s electricity in the air and flowing through the neon PIZZA beacon outside.  This is Harry’s Pizzeria at night, and it’s a party.

Chef de Cuisine Daniel Ramirez (“Danny”) and Sous Chef Chris Cantu (“Cantu”) tag-team on the tickets, the incessant orders coming through the Micros terminal: pizzas with names like Pesto, Bacon and Short Rib… The beat goes on.  This rapidity can’t impede accuracy. The chefs at the wood oven both cook and expedite 10 varieties of house pizzas, in addition to the daily special pie, and chicken wings. It takes about 3-5 minutes to cook each pizza depending on how much wood is Harry’s smoking’ hot oven — and how hot it’s running, somewhere between 7-800° F.  As multiple pizzas cook at once, I wondered, where is the timer? Danny and Cantu laughed in unison. They don’t need a timer. They can effectively monitor cooking times in their heads.

This isn’t your average pizza joint. They “man” the dough of six pizzas at once. I call it a workout! There is also only one ticket machine, and Chris shouts it out. Their flow is choreographed due to skill but also their trust  and co-dependency. There is no written rule; they know the dance and silently take the next step. It’s beautiful to watch.

Meanwhile, behind the counter, servers and managers alike, balance the requests of in-house diners with that of to go orders calling in. They know the menu well, off the top of their heads. Despite all the commotion, they find the time to keep smiling. Christine, a server, apparently has a resting smiling face. Ever heard of it? I seized the opportunity to put in a sizeable to-go order of my own: everything please!

Let’s get back to the pizzas. Although Harry’s is not known for its plain mozzarella or pepperoni pizza, if you want just that, Harry’s makes it happen. When it comes to special orders of any kind, chef Danny’s motto is “if we have it, we make it!” Whether it’s adding shrimp to your pesto pizza or mozzarella to your oyster mushroom pizza, Harry’s genuinely complies.

Meanwhile, the cool kids at the bar sip on beer flights, such as the Cigar City Maduro brown ale- a perfect pairing with the MGFD bacon- while watching some hoops on the big screen. Harry’s at night is the basement playroom you have always wanted, except with way better food. By 8:23pm, there is a wait for indoor tables as valentines, gal-entines, bro-lentines and fam-lentines alike are having too much fun. But the wait is a mere ten minutes, and soon the next group is ready to join the party.

Although this is Miami, no bouncers and no red ropes exist here. But saucy wings do! The wood oven roasted wings are cooked in an agrodolce sauce: slightly sweet, slightly spicy and extremely delicious. The best part is when they are doused in sauce from a squeeze bottle on the deck, one upping even the most sizzled cast iron fajita platter.  Don’t forget to dip into the rosemary crema for a refreshing balance, or to lick your fingers. We won’t judge.

The kitchen supports the wood oven with appetizers, special entrees, salads and desserts, and that evening, Miller and Moses held down the fort. During my watch, I couldn’t help but enjoy the homemade ricotta and caponata with focaccia, while salivating over the chicken Milanese and the buttermilk panna cotta, topped with a strawberry compote.

Let’s not forget Hedy’s treats. You probably all know about the oozing chocolate chunk cookie, but what about the Zeppole? These Italian style donuts are made from pizza dough, fried up and coated with powdered sugar, with honey whipped ricotta on the side. Mind blown!

It’s a little family in here, executing good food at a laid-back neighborhood joint, while keeping the pep in their step. As 10 pm rolled around, I expected the place the be winding down, but not really, it was still poppin’. It’s the genuine food you love, without taking it too seriously.

A Lunch Hideaway


I had some friends in town from New York last Monday.  Having enjoyed a cruise, they were only here for the day and spent the afternoon with me before heading back home. They were seeking an elegant and intimate lunch, and cocktails were in order, of course, to sail them back to the Polar Vortex in good spirits. I suggested The Cypress Room.  My last dinner experience was nothing short of breathtaking. Let’s compare with lunch!

Our party of three arrived at 1 pm.  Jazz vocals recalling a distant past flowed through the room, an escape from the commotion of the city.  The atmosphere inside was quiet, yet warm. It was the perfect meeting place.  We all chose the Prix Fixe Menu. $33 for three courses and the option to add a midcourse. It was by far the best lunch I have had in a very long time. Allow me to tell you why.


Count Basie, courtesy of Hanging with Harris.

I started with a specialty cocktail, the Count Basie with: Redemption Rye, Cocchi Americano, R&W apricot, grapefruit, lemon, egg white and pistachio. I felt so regal just drinking it, in a tall glass, with the foam from the egg white brushing against my lips. A complex mixture of spirits, sure, but the Count Basie was a smooth operator, multi-dimensional and opened my palate for what was to come.

I chose the Triggerfish Crudo for my first course, with cherry peppers and blood orange. Or maybe the Crudo chose me? The tender fish was so fresh it practically leapt from the plate with just enough heat and a perfect balance of acidity.  It awoke every nerve within me.

MarrowI opted for a midcourse, the marrow bones with preserved lemon, celery, garlic toast and topped with parsley. This dish is a classic on the menu since opening and offered both at lunch and dinner.  The buttery marrow is best enjoyed spread on garlic toasts and kissed with a squeeze of lemon.  I’ll stop at that, but I will not refrain from tasting my friends’ food. I reached over for a bite of gnocchi, prepared with calabaza, wild mushroom and herbs. Bold, yet light enough for lunch thanks to a short ingredient list coming together in harmony on the place.

My second course was the most mesmerizing: the short rib with mushroom conserva and lila onions. I added the thrice cooked fries as a side. The contrast of the rich beef, bathing in flavorful broth, shined with just a touch of the potato. With a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, I enjoyed the decadence of dinner time without feeling overwhelmed.  You’ll just have to trust me on that! Now onto dessert…

I chose another favorite, the brown butter semifreddo with compressed apple and medjool date leather. Its flavors morph as the dish melts from a tableside pour of spiced cider, each bite surpassing the last.  With French macarons begging not to be forgone, we bid The Cypress Room adieu, bellies full and hearts light.  It’s good to know there’s a reasonably priced lunch prix fixe menu ready to satisfy both the simple- or supplemental-minded at heart.

Cooking the Line: Megan Hess


Megan working the oven station at MGFD with TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron at Brunch this past Sunday during Art Basel. Click the photo for a Hyperlapse of the action on Instagram.

It was 3:00 p.m. and another Sunday Brunch shift had blown through Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.  As Megan and I sat in the courtyard, she was still in her “Chef Yoga” pants but off her feet for the first time since 7:00 a.m.  “Is my hair in order?” she asked, taking off her cap.  Megan had prepared and cooked countless dishes from the wood oven station, made even more numerous due to Brunch’s special small plates format.  She was the only girl on the savory line that morning, yet the classic Megan smile as big and bright as you’ll ever see was out in full force, the same after the shift as it was before.

“I love it! There are a lot of jokes! I grew up with an older brother and his friends and I am used to it.”

Being a line cook isn’t easy.  It’s a rough and tumble job, both mentally and physically, and not for the faint of heart.  Even as a strong woman, it’s not difficult to see how the prestigious title of Chef has more often been awarded to men more than women.  In this battlefield of orders, cutlery and fire, one must shed the individual – the passion that put you there – and don the team.  One must trust and be trusted otherwise it just doesn’t work.  Our Genuine team consists of talented and passionate individuals, from the host to the wood oven, and from savory to pastry, who do just that. Everyday. And Megan, well, she’s a perfect example.

“I guess it all started back in Ohio,” Megan shares.  “I first learned how to make French toast when I was 5 years old with my great grandmother. By middle school I wanted to be a pastry chef.”

In fact, her heart was so set for the culinary world, that Megan attended a technical high school where she competed in culinary competitions junior and senior year; and she wooed judges at an early age. The experience made her fall in love with the food and beverage industry. At the recommendation of her advisor at North Miami’s Johnson & Wales University where she currently studies culinary arts and food service management, Megan applied for a part-time internship at Michael’s Genuine to put her techniques into practice.  She was hired as a full-time line cook shortly after.

“Megan’s a quick learner and she doesn’t complain. She just gets the job done,” explains Daniel Ramirez who at the time of Megan’s internship was a sous chef at Michael’s Genuine. He’s now Chef de Cuisine at Harry’s Pizzeria. “I think we [Chef de Cuisine Niven Patel, Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, and sous-chef Jason Arroyo] were astonished that her passion and talent went hand in hand with solid execution and professionalism.  It’s a hard combination to come by especially in a young cook.”

Megan welcomed the additional responsibility. She worked hard and played hard. She was in short, genuine.  Continuing her studies full-time, she attends school from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on most weekdays, and then comes to work at 3:00 p.m. I asked, “When do you do your homework?” and she replied “Within those three hours of course.”  As a student myself juggling work, I was impressed.  “On my days off, I nap,” this 21 year old admits.

Megan is often assigned to work at the wood oven, a very challenging station, and her favorite. Why so? She shares that the challenge motivates her. She does not receive a ticket with a list of what she is to prepare. Rather, she must remember what the Chef at the expo line requested, on the fly! In addition, she can prepare the whole snapper and the whole “Poulet Rouge.” Yum!

“My favorite dish to make at MGFD is the pasta,” Megan says.  “I love the variety at the sauté station, since it changes daily, and that we make it in house, fresh.  I also enjoy working at the grill due to the tempo. Well, I can have fun at pretty much any station!”

Megan dreams of success and a family, but also to be like Niven one day. Who says you can’t have it all? In addition, she hopes  to motivate and teach students at technical schools, as she once was, to encourage them to pursue their goals. We say that girls like Megan truly make the dream team happen.

MGFD Brunch at 5 Years | Respect the Savory

We started celebrating 5 years of Genuine Brunch with dessert first, and now the savory team will give our pastry dream team a run for its money!

As you know, this special meal occurs once a week at Michael’s flagship and it is all about nostalgia… bringing back classics to the menu, with a genuine twist. Sitting at the top of the menu are small plates, which of course can be consumed with sweets simultaneously. The instant classics include kimchi benedict and crispy rice cake topped with a sunny side up egg. To our Chef de Cuisine, Niven Patel, brunch now means chilaquiles, too! Housemade tortilla chips are topped with salsa verde, queso fresco, cilantro, tomatoes, and a spicy cream sauce. It’s a fire party in your mouth. In fact, they are Sous-Chef Jason Arroyo’s favorite dish to make at Brunch.

Jason has worked our Brunch service for 2 years now, per TGHG Executive Chef Bradley Herron‘s request. Brunch is a way for chefs to explore their creativity and learn how to operate the MGFD kitchen effectively at its most intense pace all week.

“…Brunch is a perfect outlet to manage this kitchen”, admits Jason. Brunch can make or break you in short.

It’s an opportunity for growth due the sheer number of dishes and the flexibility of the menu. Our chilaquiles recipe is Jason’s own and calls for roasted vegetables such as the habanero peppers and tomatoes, leading to a smoky and spicy version of the traditional Mexican dish. This dish makes an appearance often due to popular guest demand (and employee demand if you ask me!) Not only does Jason love to please the audience, but he likes munching on some chilaquiles after making them.

Guest feedback factors into the brunch mix as well. Like our Executive Pastry Chef, Hedy Goldsmith, Jason walks the line between sweet and savory, evidenced by waffle topped with short rib, or taking the fried dough of a doughnut and glazing it with tangy goat cheese. In fact, he reaches out to Hedy in those instances for tips! Despite the playfulness of blurring the line, sweets require measurement, accuracy and patience.

Daniel Ramirez, recently over at Harry’s as Chef de Cuisine but a longtime cook at Genuine always called on Latin classics such as chicharrones and tostones for inspiration.

With our recent renovations and the addition of the raw bar, Brunch has evolved for the better because oysters and champagne are perfect for brunch! Further our brunch regulars can enjoy crudo, ceviche and stone crabs in addition to our traditional dishes, like the breakfast pizza. Brunch is a cultural melting pot and a flavor explosion at once, according to Chef Niven and the raw bar completes us.

Despite all the fun that comes with eating brunch, the preparation process is no joke. As early as the previous week, the chefs begin to think of potential ideas as a third of the savory dishes must be changed weekly, at the very least. By Wednesday of that week, a menu is drafted so that chefs may begin testing dishes. And on Sunday morning, chefs and cooks come in at 7am to get ready for battle. Hundreds and hunderds of small plates fly out of our miniscule kitchen within four mere hours, all so that you can enjoy Brunch the way it was meant to be. The Genuine way.

Want to see our first all staff tasting of brunch EVER? Check out our Flickr album to really flash back to Saturday, October 24, 2009, the day before our first Sunday Brunch service. TGIF and see you Sunday!