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.

Stirring Things Up for Negroni Week at Michael’s Genuine® & Amara at Paraiso

If you’re a lover of a cocktail that leans a little bitter, you’ll want to visit the bars at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and Amara at Paraiso ASAP.  It’s Negroni Week, the annual celebration of our favorite early evening Italian ritual that piques the appetite for all things nocturnal – especially poppable bar snacks like cheesy yuca puffs.

Amara at Paraiso’s trifecta of sultry red deliciousness.

Beginning today through Sunday, both restaurants have a list of special twists on this classic cocktail known for its amaro bite but celebrated for its exquisite balance.  We can and do conjure the classic at a moment’s notice — 1:1:1 of equal parts sweet vermouth preferably Carpano Antica, gin and Campari — but this week gives us a little license to get creative, and the juices have been flowing!  A portion of proceeds from each cocktail purchased will be donated to causes close to our hearts — at Amara assistant GM Maria Pottage offers 3 specials which support Outside In, helping homeless youth and marginalized people move towards improved health and self-sufficiency.  Michael’s Genuine’s bartender Jorge Hernandez offers a new negroni each day as its “Market Special” to benefit Wellness in the Schools, a national non-profit we work with in Miami that teaches kids healthy habits to learn and live better. Menus are listed below, so plan accordingly.

Below, pictured left to right.

Amara at Paraiso ~ Special Negroni List (13)
Negroni at Paraiso – Sotol por Siempre, Barsol Perfecto Amor pisco, Campari, orange peel
The Agroni – Campari, Russell’s Reserve bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, lemon, aqua fava, bitters
Negroni Punch – Macchu pisco, Campari, Aperol, pineapple juice, rosé, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

Today’s special at Michael’s Genuine.

Michael’s Genuine ~ Market Special Negroni (12)

Monday –
Botanist Gin
Lychee Infused Cocchi Americano
Campari
Rinomato
St Germain

Tuesday –
Gin Mare
Sage Lime Syrup
Campari
Massican Dry Vermouth

Wednesday –
St George Terroir
Peach Infused Campari
Combier
Antica Carpano

Thursday –
Ransom Old Tom Gin
4 Roses Small Batch
Campari
Antica CArpano

Friday –
Botanist Gin
Passion Fruit Syrup
Campari
Massican Dry Vermouth

Saturday –
Love Eden Gin
Campari
Averel Sloe Gin
Cocchi Americano

Sunday –
Classic Negroni

Summer Cooking School with Chef Michael Schwartz: Class is in Session After Hours at Ella Pop Café

Summer is just the time to learn something new, or polish your skills doing what you already love! All you need is a little motivation in the form of a great instructor — James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz!

For the first time, Miami’s beloved chef known best for his straightforward, delicious food at flagship restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, teaches a series of cooking classes, including Pizza (June 14), Pasta (July 12), and Empanadas (August 9).

$125 per person, per event includes it all — each cooking class brings a three course meal, signature cocktail, wine & beer, take home gift and chef! Max 26 people per event.  Pizza is already sold out but you can snag your tickets to Pasta and Empanadas at these respective links.  The summer school is hosted at ella pop, the chef’s light and airy café in the Miami Design District’s Palm Court, from 7-10pm after regular business hours (140 NE 39th Street, Miami, FL 33137).

The new summer series is brought to us by the amazing folks at Michael Schwartz Events.  Our catering and private party division puts on special events like this, as well as a host of other offerings for your upcoming gathering large or small. For more information, menus and to request a quote for everything under the sun from weddings to birthday parties, visit michaelschwartzevents.com.

A Little Lechon & Wine Pairing Competition? Amara Sommelier Amanda Fraga is all Cheers

Fraga in her element at Amara!

Amanda Fraga is no stranger to competition.  For the third consecutive year, our now sommelier at Amara at Paraiso has been invited to participate in Cochon 555, the heritage hog, chef and wine professional bout of brains, brawn and creative brilliance.  This is great news of course, since we get to come along for the ride not only at the event, but for the training in preparation which we found is just as strategic and mind bending as it is for their culinary counterparts. Amanda’s mission: select any wine she’d like, unhindered by sponsorship obligations, that will pair best with the presentation plates of each of the 5 chef candidates.  Yes, here’s the catch. She won’t know the dishes her wine needs to work with until she’s vying for attention to pour it amidst her four peers.

“For me, my job lies in how I figure out where my wine can be highlighted on the playing field and how I can get these judges to try it with what I think on the fly it will work best with. Under the clock, of course,” she explains.  “You want to pick a pig-friendly wine that will play well with an array of dishes.  It has to be versatile, but to a large extent you are playing the odds.  What you can control, you try to.”

It’s all timed.  Every 10 minutes, the pack of judges descends on each station and systematically hears the chef’s point of view for their offering, tastes through the dishes and also is approached by the sommeliers, who are also judges of the competition.  Everyone has an agenda and everyone votes on everything.

“I try to not stand next to the same people the whole time, and it’s not easy because the focus is on the pig and the chef,” Fraga continues. “I haven’t won yet, but I do think it’s important to find something in your approach that’s memorable.”

Fraga decided to pick a Cava in méthode Champenoise — Juvé y Camps “Brut Nature” Reserva de la Familia. This is the real, old school deal, a grower Cava from a family-owned house making wine since the 1700s.  When a Juvé married a Camps in the early 20th century, this sparkling was born.  A 40th anniversary edition, the Reserva has two years age and is made from the Spanish grapes traditional to its sparkling wine. It is bright with a little green apple but with some gravitas and toastiness thanks to the time in the bottle.

“Even the label is super classic,” she notes.  “It is even rumored that Dom borrowed the shape. The family cares about tradition and have kept the label.  Chefs are so visual, and this is the OG. I also wanted to honor the heritage aspect of what Cochon is all about.”

Clearly Fraga’s not concerned about showing her hand which is one of the many reasons we love her.  To support our fearless super somm and to partake in the pigging, grab tickets to the main event in Miami on June 10, with winners advancing to Grand Conchon finale, here.

Chef’s Night In at Genuine Pizza: Michael Schwartz Spins 3 Special Pies in the Aventura Oven on Tuesday, April 3

It’s a dinner date!  Tuesday, April 3 from 5-10 p.m., Genuine Pizza Aventura not only brings three more special pizzas to the table, it’s adding the pizza cook who conceived them to the line.

Chef’s Night In features our pizza maker in chief, Michael Schwartz, working the Marra Forni oven with a few new creative topping combinations.  We hear he makes a mean margherita, too.

CHEF’S 4.3.18 SPECIALS 

MERGUEZ
harissa, scallion
halloumi
mint

BÉCHAMEL
pepper relish
bitter greens
parmigiano

CLAM
preserved lemon
parsley, chile flake
parmigiano

The special menu of pies will run all night until they run out and can be made with gluten-free crust for an additional $3.  They’ll be available a la carte, or bundled in a great deal — pick one with a salad of your choice and a glass of wine for $30 per person plus tax and gratuity.

So how would Michael slice his?  “It’s a tough one, but I think I’d have to go with the clam and the Sancerre,” he says. “But if I’m starting with the Brussels sprouts salad, I’d need a glass of the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, too!”

Now that’s a party.

Genuine Pizza Aventura Mall
19565 Biscayne Blvd, Unit 956, Aventura, FL 33180
Get Directions
(786) 472-9170
Click here for our regular menu (including wine list!)