It was my first time at the commissary, and I was in for a treat. As I finished my drive and parked my car outside, right “next to the Empanada place”, the sun was beginning to rise. When I walked in I saw a bustling hive of early rising folks. Everyone is working to complete the prep list of the day before Jean brings the van to whisk everything away and deliver it to the restaurants. Billie Eilish plays in the background. Let’s break down my time here into numbers:
10 people working here. Each with their own task for the day. There’s Myrtille Quillien, head pastry chef for Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Amara at Paraiso and Ella Pop Café. Then Yesenia, her assistant and master donut maker, a dealbreaker for Myrtille when she transitioned in her new promotion from Amara, their former home. CJ is the commissary manager, handles savory production and makes sure all orders are accounted for. Micheline and Nancy work on short rib and pig ears, while Marie is on the fryer for potato chips. Joceline washes dishes, while Stacy and Alex roll out cinnamon rolls and make coconut cake filling. Lastly, Jean loads up the van and makes the rounds dropping off the goodies to each restaurant. Each unique. Each essential to the process working right.
9 things I can see being made when I walk in. Cinnamon rolls, financiers, quiches, coconut cake, mayonnaise, pig ears, short rib, donuts, and potato chips. The days list doesn’t end there though! Many more items are made throughout the day.
8 steps to the coconut cake. 1- Bake the cakes 2-Cut them into sheets for stacking 3- Lay down the first sheet, brush with syrup 4- add frosting to each layer 5- repeat with all of the layers 6- frost the whole cake 7-cover in coconut flakes 8- torch the coconut flakes. This cake is a dessert at Amara and is sometimes featured in Ella’s pastry display.
7 am call time. I am not a morning person, so you can imagine my sentiments. But these are baker’s hours. Myrtille gets here around 5 and is a self-proclaimed early-bird. She went to bed at 8 pm the night before!
6 colors of Fruity Pebbles. Yesenia spent hours at home separating the colors of the cereal in order to make a special rainbow donut. Then, she meticulously places them to create a beautiful and cheery design. Painstakingly perfect, just like the rainbow that appeared in the sky as we left later!
5 people help load the truck around 8. The definition of genuine teamwork! From the meditative state of getting through the morning prep list, the energy shifts into high gear as the morning’s haul is rushed into the van, quickly tallied with any missing items handed off in a flurry as Jean steps on the gas to make his delivery rounds. Phew! Everyone takes a small break before prepping for the next day.
4 trays of eggs in the Combi oven for mayonnaise, dialed in with a recipe that ensures perfect every time with zero breakage! Fun fact: we make our own mayo. Not so we can write “house made” on the menu (we don’t) but because it tastes better, is extremely cost efficient and is easy to make!
3 stops for Jean to make in the van: Michael’s Genuine, Ella Pop Café, and Amara at Paraiso. Everything is delivered fresh daily!
2 perfectly zested lemons by Myrtille. As she was stirring her almond Financier dough and folding in the fragrant flecks, I looked over to see two of the most perfectly zested lemons I’ve ever seen in my life! Myrtille was taught by a woman who spent hours zesting oranges to make orange sugar. All white pith, no sweet peel to be found, nor wasted. “It’s my special technique!” she exclaimed.
1 cup of French Press coffee. After the Commissary’s espresso machine was taken for to Tigertail + Mary, Myrtille took matters into her own hands and brought her mini French Press when Culinary Director Bradley’s idea of Mr. Coffee didn’t sit well. Good coffee is a must when your alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning!