Kneading Lessons & a Learning Legacy on the Road with the Vetri Family

Growth happens when we are exposed to new things — or sometimes, the same things but new ways of doing them.  When we have those with the experience, passion and patience to teach us, something beautiful happens in the exchange.  An invitation to cook at the annual Great Chefs Event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand in Philadelphia last week presented such an opportunity for The Genuine Hospitality Group culinary assistant Dillion Wolff — to stage at Vetri Cucina, thanks to Michael and friend Marc Vetri.  A chef respected by his peers for his talent and heart, Marc has cultivated a stable of acclaimed chefs and restaurants since his flagship Vetri Cucina opened in Philly in 1998. It’s hard enough to be a for-profit business in this business, so 20 years is many lifetimes in the restaurant world, especially when you are also running a foundation in tandem.  Vetri Cucina set the tone and proved a solid foundation from which to build, recognized for the level of care taken in honoring and elevating the traditional Italian kitchen.  Its special tasting menu has minted this gem in the canon of American dining and won multiple James Beard Awards for its offspring, Jeff Michaud and Mike Solomonov to name a few.  If Marc is the OG progenitor, Vetri Cucina is the primordial Italian wedding soup.

The dining experience at Vetri is an ode to the mother country and its love of food unlike any other. In addition to the dining room, guests can arrange for private dinners, as well as partake in cooking classes on site.  As Dillion found out, perhaps the education most important happens daily among its cooks in service — a recipe of teamwork and technique.  It’s a place where bread, pasta and even polenta made from scratch means milling the flour in house.

“Going into it there were a few things I was curious about, like making fresh pasta, for example,” Dillion reflected on the phone Monday.  “How they run service is so different than Harry’s or Genuine Pizza — even Michael’s Genuine or Amara.  We are talking a 30 seat restaurant where 40 covers is a crazy busy night.”

TGHG Culinary Director Bradley Herron snagged Dillion for his team in February 2017 from Michael’s Genuine, where he had been working the line for a year after interning there during culinary school.  The culinary assistant role is a unique one, providing support to all Genuine group entities — from Amara at Paraiso to Fi’lia in the Bahamas to our commissary kitchen — with ongoing training, their chefs with last minute help on the line, working Michael Schwartz Events including private parties from cocktail receptions to cooking classes and off-site catering, and handling special projects.  Really everything under the sun.  Most recently, Dillion worked with the Genuine Pizza cookbook team on a week-long photoshoot.  The 150 pictures of recipes and lifestyle shots due to publisher Abrams Books quickly became 180, including several step by step instructive images for which he and colleague Brandon Green served not only as prep cooks but subjects.

Some of the Genuine Pizza cookbook photo wall, most of Dillion’s hands!

“This job requires flexibility and versatility, but it demands a good attitude,” Bradley explained.  “You have to be able to jump in to help and get things done at a moment’s notice, and they need to be done right. Dillion is as fast as he is proficient, but these are strengths that as a cook you always want to be improving upon.  That comes with experience, time on the line and repeated exposure to new environments and things.”

Dinner at Vetri is conceived based on each table, and everything isn’t the same.  The on the fly structure is part of the challenge, the fun and the instruction.

“It was cool to see how dynamic the approach is with the tasting menu,” Dillion reflects.  “It’s not just what the chef wants to do, it’s trying to make the diner’s experience as custom and to their tastes and food preferences as possible.”

The first day, Dillion was a fly on the wall for service, and they would make him an extra of each dish to taste. Tuesday was spent with the baker, milling fresh flour and baking bread.  He worked service with “pasta guy” and also helped with private events upstairs.

“Matt, the executive chef… On Monday he was the dishwasher.  I mean, it really sets the tone when the first courses come in heavy and the pasta cook comes in to help put it out.  You could tell in the kitchen that it was a huge team effort,” he reflected. “Everyone will do whatever. The whole operation is impressive, the attention to detail and craft but also people being genuine with each other — and incredibly welcoming to me.  They didn’t want to ask me to do things, like the stuff that’s not glamorous, and I’m there to work and to do anything. I had so many questions and no one got annoyed with me!”

The City of Brotherly Love indeed. Something we can all benefit from emulating!  Follow Dillion on Instagram @dillion_wolff.

Wellness in the Schools is Right on Target in Broward County Public Schools!

Like father, like son!  Class is always in session with Wellness in the Schools and last night was no exception at Wynwood Yard where we celebrated some important school year-end milestones with cooking class led by Chef and inspired by recipes from Genuine Pizza and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, with help from Harry Schwartz and TGHG culinary assistant Brandon Green.  The tireless team behind this cause close to our hearts in NYC and Miami reached this year’s goals with the Broward County Food & Nutrition Services including first annual Cook Camps.  This week they will train 10 new schools and their cafeteria staff on new menu items from local chef partners including:  Michael Schwartz Kale inspired Pizza, Clarke Bowen’s Black Bean and Plantain Quesadilla, Chef Aria’s Pesto Panini, Roasted Veggies from Chef Julie Frans, and Whole Foods Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes.

Back in October, when Chef launched the Kale Pizza at McNicol Middle School, he got to experience a day in the life of the cafeteria. Spending time with Ms. Naomi, the heartbeat of that kitchen, the students and watching them try a new food item such as Kale, made his day.   Every chef who participated in “Chefs Move to Broward” worked to generate excitement in the cafeteria, amongst the students and to get their recipe on the line!  Next year will only get better.  Amazing job as always by NYC founding leaders Nancy Easton and chef Bill Telepan and the team on the ground in Miami led by Allyce Perret-Gentil, our in-school chef partner Leonor Azpurua, and so many more.   As Michael says, they do all the work! We’re just humbled to be along for the ride.  Here are the recipes from last night’s festivities for your home use.

Nose to Fruit: New Seasonal Salad, Pizza & Sangria Specials Now Summering at Harry’s Pizzeria® & Genuine Pizza™

We look forward to the smells of summer — the way the air gets thick and sparkly after a tropical sun shower, and sunscreen’s dreamy imprint on our memory banks beached in laughter and salty ocean breezes. This is a season that lets you know it’s here — and in a hurry.

In Florida, our fruit trees are heavy now with mango, lychee and even peaches.  And when it comes to the fragrance of the season, a good peach can’t be beat in its intensity and truth.  Putting nose to fruit is a pro tip you’ll notice chefs doing as second nature, because it’s a pretty great clue to ripeness.

The sniff test on guava at Miami Design District’s market last year.

“We shop for ingredients just like everyone else does, and we do a lot of smelling in the process,” explains chef Bradley Herron.  “Finding a good peach is essential for this salad to work.”

To know what’s inside without breaking the skin, you have to trust nose more than your eyes or even fingers.  If it’s good and ready, you’ll get the same zesty sweetness found in the flesh just by smelling it.

As we roll out summer specials at the pizzerias, the start of the season is always an interesting one as things get going. Early product coming in has been smelling strong so far – a good sign.  Enjoy the Peach & Burrata Salad and Peach & Gorgonzola Pizza with our new Sangria, because lighter alcohol “cocktails” and summer go hand in hand when you want something refreshing and festive with which to cool off!  Refreshing in its simplicity, ours combines your choice of three wines with San Pellegrino’s sparkling blood orange soda.

Brighten up your day and get a jump start on summer time — visit our website for hours, menu and to order online.  For a genuine anthology of peaches, explore this archive on the blog, or a primer on summer fruit and how peaches came to cultivation here in the Sunshine State in a 2014 chat with then Michael’s Genuine chef de cuisine Niven Patel.

Ready for Its Cheese Pull Moment in the Sun, Better Pizza at Home is the Star of Chef Michael Schwartz’s New Genuine Pizza Cookbook

Puttanesca with marinara, stracciatella, anchovies, capers, olives and basil.

Feast your eyes on Genuine Pizza! Shooting on location this week on Miami Beach, Chef Michael Schwartz and a crack team of cooks and creatives are preparing the final elements of Genuine Pizza: Better Pizza at Home, due to publish in Spring 2019 with Abrams Books. With more than 75 recipes, the Chef shares his genuine approach to making better pizza at home.  The pictures make the book after all, and we’re serious about capturing the experience true to hand-formed!

“My philosophy is simple and straightforward—the secret to good food is good food, and it starts with sourcing great ingredients,” says Schwartz. “Genuine Pizza is my approach as an American chef who puts quality and simplicity first. Pizza has always been an important part of all my restaurants.  It’s an opportunity for expression and I want the home cook to feel like they now have a great resource that they can turn to and enjoy using.”

Teamwork makes the dream work (left to right): Prop Haus’ Martha Bernabe, TGHG culinary assistant Dillion Wolff, chef Michael Schwartz, culinary assistant Brandon Green and camera assistant Sophie Fabbri.

The popularity of pizza at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink inspired Schwartz to open a casual pizza restaurant, Genuine PizzaTM, and this book reveals the chef’s tried and true approach for making his signature pies. Schwartz believes that the home cook can and should eat better pizza at home, and so Genuine Pizza is inviting and fun, covering the basics first, so that readers can then be adventurous in their own kitchens, mixing and matching ingredients that appeal to them, to create the perfect pie.

Brad and Brandon.

Beginning with Pizza Fundamentals, Genuine Pizza explores everything from useful equipment and must-have ingredients to detailed, step-by-step techniques for how to make incredible dough, including recipes for gluten-free and rye-based options. Part two is all about composing nuanced, flavorful pizzas, with recipes that include classics such as Margherita and Soppressata, as well as pies with more unorthodox, yet irresistible topping combinations. Schwartz shares his favorites, like Zucchini with ricotta, anchovy, chile, lemon, grana padano, mint, and basil, BLT with bacon with arugula, tomato, and taleggio, and Pastrami on rye crust. Inspired by the Miami locale, pizzas also feature local Rock Shrimp and Slow-roasted Pork, Schwartz’s nod to the Cuban sandwich in pizza form.

Because no one can live on pizza alone, Genuine Pizza also explores Snacks, Soups, Salads, Main Courses, Desserts, and Drinks, forming a guidebook to creating balanced, vibrant meals, centered around everyone’s favorite food. “Pizza is just the beginning—it’s a jumping off point to colorful, delicious meals at home,” says Schwartz.

Follow #genuinepizzaathome and visit thegenuinekitchen.com for more information, events, and behind the scenes content leading up to the release.

Photographer Sidney Bensimon with TGHG Culinary Director Bradley Herron.

Pizza Happy Hour is the Happiest of Hours

Short Rib + Pinot Noir. A happy hour combo to feast on.

Happy Hour just got more cheesy delicious.  Beginning this week, visit Harry’s Pizzeria® and Genuine Pizza™ Monday through Friday from 4-7pm and all pizzas on the menu are $10. Whether for a mid-afternoon pick me up or strong finish to a long work day, there are so many ways to slice the deal from Miami to Atlanta.  All South Florida locations have a specially-priced beverage to match, with $6 wines by the glass and $5 beers.

For menus and locations, visit genuinepizza.com.