When a Just Ok Bagel Is Not Good Enough, The Genuine Commissary Dials in the Schwartz Recipe

“MJ always has to touch the dough.  Always,” explains Chelsea Hillier, assistant pastry chef.  It’s 5:56 a.m. and work on the day’s prep list has already been in motion for 30 minutes.  We’re spending the morning at the Genuine Commissary, where the energy is decidedly different than later in the day.  It’s… well… therapeutic?

To understand how a place so frenetic can glaze-coat the spirit and spark a twinkle in the eye, you have to be there. In fact, I prescribe a visit with MJ and her team to anyone afflicted with a case of sour attitude or bad day.  It’s a dose of good vibes, creative energy and inspirational collaboration like no other I’ve experienced.  Talk about knowing where our food comes from… They have their hands all over it.

“We started making the bagels because Harry and I went to brunch on Miami Beach,” chef Michael recounts. “Harry’s bagel arrived, and it was like a Lender’s. At this fancy place! I listened to myself as I justified how this could happen — that it’s too hard to make good bagels, so why go through the pain of making sure it’s done right, the extra cost and time associated.  It was then when I realized that was totally ridiculous.  We shouldn’t have to suffer through shitty bagels.  Let’s make bagels!  So Harry and I spent a few weekends after that testing recipes and figuring it out.”

Spreading the peanut butter cream to the nutter shell. Myrtille is one of several commissary staff exclusively working on-site,  not including TGHG chefs overseeing the production or popping in on any given day for recipe testing or other projects related to Michael Schwartz Events.

MJ, whose title of Pastry Chef is more and more savory these days, and Chelsea have totally embraced this thought process and put it into action, with their well-oiled machine.  It’s an exercise in “mental time management”, and to get good fitness there serves them in every aspect of functionality and productivity at the space.  That they are taking on bagels to begin with demonstrates the strength of the operation, and its steady and calculated evolution from humble beginnings in January — both in capabilities and the scope of its role. The commissary now supplies Ella Pop Café with 12 to 14 a day (“We want them to be fresh, and eliminate waste when possible, so no crazy pars,” they say) and 56 on Sunday’s for Michael’s Genuine.

“We used to do the English muffin at brunch, and Chef was like ‘I want you guys to do bagels’ and he gave us this recipe and asked us to develop it,” MJ explains. “It really came to life when we got the commissary and this (combi) oven.  There aren’t a lot of places that make them by hand, from scratch.  We just worked with the dough and used the Rational as our ally to make the best of it in a controlled environment. Before we would boil them, we were trying to be rushed at the restaurant to get it done, and they weren’t right.”

As Chelsea rolls and then rests the dough before pulling them into loops, she explains that the bagels take good chunk of time even if it is only 12 to 14. The key to bagels is keeping a clean workspace, and that also includes your hands.  You don’t want to incorporate more flour or oil than necessary, even the tiniest bit.  They need to sit and rest for the gluten to develop properly in the dough, not too much or they’ll get tense and rip, overextending like a muscle.

“It’s a time to breath and think amidst the craziness of the pace from one thing to the next. It’s like therapy,” she reflects. “The time they need depends. You need more than time to know.  You have to touch them, and use all your senses to know when.  I usually stare at the prep list and contemplate as I’m pulling them.”

Homework.

So much depends on time and timing here for it to all work, from the bagel dough and all its stages including proofing and baking, to adjustments on call times for the staff based on the work load for the week.  When the duck confit goes in for its 9 hour water bath (sous vide) at 8 a.m., you better have completed everything requiring the combi oven by then. In this way, the prep list double as a recipe, which Chef notes only serves if read all the way through before starting.  Then there’s the last minute requests, the fire drills you can’t plan for, like a downed walk-in cooler, that can set things off axis and require smart, creative thinking on the fly. It’s a business of anticipation but also of problem solving.

The day builds momentum from the instant Chelsea opens the kitchen, a mind-blowing (cue the new emoji!), eye-squinting 4:30 a.m. on Sundays.  The morning is the most hectic because because the team needs to knock out all orders for the restaurants, to supply everyone — and they want things fresh.  They base everything off Ella’s timeline so that means 8:30 a.m. delivery. On days there are early orders for Michael Schwartz Events, that could be 7:30 a.m.  Rye Butterscotch Brownie trimmings make it all better, of course. So does the surprise, creative elements unique to each day.

“We never do the same thing. Everyday is different,” Chelsea smiles.  “There are certain routines and things we need to make. Sometimes we do cupcakes or special cookies.  Whoever is making the donut gets to make what they want to make and have a creative outlet.  If we want to bring something in we always make sure we have a plan for it.  I’m working on developing the brunch menu to reflect the arrival of season.  So if I bring in pears, we find ways to cross utilize them across many restaurants and formats.”

Then there’s the fun of watching MJ and Chelsea bat back and forth like a tennis, crosschecking tasks and playing off each other’s moves and sensibilities, which are opposed in the most fluid and collaborative way.  Complementary, like any effective creative pair.

“I think everybody at the commissary really enjoys working here,” MJ reflects.  “We all come with a purpose and work equally as hard, and at the end of the day that’s what worth it.”

The Peak of Seasoned: Commissary Goals

There’re a lot to be said for writing things down. Releasing your desired reality out into the universe, having them in type — or in my case script — there to remind you.  To look at every so often, sometimes more than others.  And to be astonished one day that it’s time to make new ones because what you’ve set out to accomplish is now, seemingly suddenly, real.  Growth is a thing you commit to and when you do, something magical happens where what was so unknown becomes the most familiar thing in the world.

img_8973We set goals here at The Genuine Hospitality Group.  Our people do and so does our company.  It’s hard to imagine that the idea seemed foreign just a year and a half ago.  Now at the start of the year, it’s not just goals for our business, I set personal ones, too.  Even hashtag them.

“It’s unfolding like an onion,” says Michael.  He’s speaking about our new commissary kitchen, but I know it’s a metaphor for what’s happening now writ large.  What unfurls when something is set into motion.  “So many exciting opportunities will come from this project.”

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Strawberries in the fields at Knaus Berry Farms. We want them all.

We got into the large space a month ago, and executive chef Bradley Herron will tell you we’ve already grown out of it.  It’s not hard to imagine, I found visiting last Wednesday with MJ Garcia who is exploring “the savory side of life”, captaining the project at ground zero.  But for Bradley, our MGFD pastry chef was just the right person for the job.

“Brad stitched me for the part,” MJ explains.  “I’m learning how to administer and organize my time, figuring out how the proteins work, how to utilize the space properly.”

The journey began around summer’s end, and the understanding that there was opportunity to build out Michael Schwartz Events and our catering capability quickly became the realization that we could centralize production for our restaurants, capitalize on product at the peak of season and get as much of it and out of it as possible.  For Brad and Michael this has opened up the potential to rethink how we do things, the possibilities for ingredients and sourcing, the development of people at this facility and at the restaurants that comes with increased efficiency.  Imagine the doors this opens for creativity.

“Michael connected with Margie from Bee Heaven Farm and hashed a plan with the chefs,” MJ explains.  “We bring in whatever she has leftover from the weekend market and in abundance.  We take as much as we can and get to work preserving, dehydrating, processing things fresh, incorporating it into sauces, veal stock.”

After a space was identified and lease signed, Brad along with culinary assistant Megan Hess just started showing MJ the savory ropes. Recipes were dialed in, and once the space was delivered and equipment online thanks to heavy lifting from TGHG VP of Development Patrick Brown, programmed into a combioven which MJ swears could basically take care of her child.

“I put the eggs for the mayo in there, right in the crate. There is no movement, no breakage.  And the time it saves!  Brad built this operation for efficiency. Everything is big enough to climb into.”

Coffee is the first item on the check list in any kitchen Brad and Michael are running.

Good coffee is the first item on the check list in any kitchen Brad and Michael are running.

“You don’t have service so you have time to pay attention to details and make sure product comes out the same way every time,” MJ continues.  “We have a unique opportunity to basically work without the million variables at odds in a busy restaurant. The time pressure now is different. It’s scheduling and planning, forecasting the needs of the restaurants.”

She’ll say she’s slowly taking on more production, that she was terrified the first week getting into the space.  But as an outsider to this process observing it for the first time, the progress they’ve made since the fear of January 2 is nothing short of astounding.  In one month MJ has gone from fish out of water to conservatively comfortable, owning the first (and longest) cooking stages of the prep for proteins and so much more that she’s already hiring more staff to handle it all.

Combimagic: 3 cases of octopus -- a week's worth of octopus in one day that MGFD will then take an wood oven roast or add to its daily pasta set up. We control temperature, humidity and pressure -- basically every element of the cooking process.

Combioven magic, no joke.  This rig has been programmed to cook 3 cases of octopus in one day — that’s a week’s worth for MGFD which it will wood oven roast or add to the daily pasta set up. We can control temperature, humidity and pressure — basically every element of the cooking process.

“When they order I have to be ready,” MJ says of the constant communication with the restaurants as the process synchronizes. “Most of this is lead time stuff so by nature it requires forecasting. 8-10 hours of cooking overnight for most of the proteins like the pork belly, pastrami, short rib, pig ears… The bacon is just rubbed but I’m smoking it here so again, that’s a process that takes time.  I’m still building up a base pantry and learning our pars but then again they’re going to change as we continue to develop new catering offerings.  We are creating a pattern of what we need, don’t need, one thing at a time as I get my feet on the ground and understand the rhythm of things.  We want to train and do things in the right way.”

Brad is guiding MJ through planning based on restaurant sales and previous orders, as well as weekly forecasts of covers.  Then there’s the innovation that happens when the tail can wag the dog, maybe anticipate what the restaurants might not even know they need.  Sometimes she’ll work special projects for Cypress Tavern if Max requests, like duck confit. She’s caramelizing the onions and slicing the chips for MGFD’s dip, cutting and crisping potatoes for fries and cabbage for the pastrami, building ella’s grilled cheese sandwiches for the griddle.  The list goes on and will continue to grow when she takes on something familiar next month — pastry production with assistant Alex Sarria.

“I go every morning to check on the girls,” MJ says. “And then I surprise drop in and taste twice a week with the night crew.”

 

For Michael it’s not just about capitalizing on bumper crops for pricing and quality, it’s about investing in our people.  That’s the thing about goals.  By design they need to be measurable and achievable and to make them so, you time stamp and list who’s on the journey with you.  Because you can’t do it alone, ever.  We like to say we know more what we don’t want than what we do.  And that’s perfectly fine too.   Many thanks to TGHG Managing Partner and Harry’s Holdings CEO Sunil Bhatt for teaching us about goals.  Onward and upward.

Harry’s Mobile Oven Pizza Party Price Is Right with Michael Schwartz Events

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Michael Schwartz Events is on the move!  With more capabilities than ever, Special Events Director Lindsay Guidos is launching a new monthly newsletter dedicated to tell you all about our private parties and catering services.  SIGN UP HERE.  We’re sharing July’s edition here for a taste of what to expect!

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Lindsay with chef Daniel Ramirez showing us how it’s done!

First up, Michael is introducing special pricing for Harry’s mobile wood burning oven.  It’s now easier than ever to throw a genuine pizza party with freshly made dough and creative toppings.  Let our team roll up to your next gathering with a three pizza menu straight from the Harry’s Pizzeria playbook, genuine chefs included! Email Lindsay@michaelschwartzevents.com to get rolling, or call her at 203.313.4503.

image3296713HARRY’S PIZZA PARTY ON WHEELS
Sample Menu (fully customizable!)

MARGHERITA mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil
MEATBALL peppers & onions, escarole, truffle
MUSHROOM porcini, cremini, fontina, taleggio, thyme

Harry’s Pizzeria Mobile Oven Pricing

Minimum of $1,500 includes first 30 guests
Additional guests over 30: $18 per person
Additional guests over 75: $15 per person
Salad/ Dessert add-on: $6 per person ea., or $10 per person for both
Beverage packages upon request

*Travel up to 25 miles from Harry’s Pizzeria Design District included.
Additional $50 for every 10 miles outside 25 mile zone.
**No additional weekend fees.
No service charge; tax only.

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Sweet February Somethings | Valentine’s Day, Indulge Brunch & Harry’s Beer Slam!

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Just a little love note to remind you of some off-the-menu fun happening this month…  There’s something for every taste, from an indulgent brunch at Cypress Tavern, to a battle of beer pairings at Harry’s Pizzeria with a menu from TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron.  In fact, we’re releasing it first here today!  Cheers!

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SUNDAY 2/14 | It’s all about getting cozy on the most romantic day of the year, and Cypress Tavern will make that easy whether you choose its 3-course Valentine’s Dinner prix fixe with a half bottle of Champagne for each couple or make a weekend of it at brunch!  To reserve a table, email reservations@cypresstavern.com or call 305.520.5197.  $5 Design District Valet is available, as well as street parking in the city lot in between 37th and 38th street. Full menus and more information are available at cypresstavern.com.

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CT_Indulge Brunch MenuSATURDAY 2/20 | Chefs Michael, Bradley and Max are in the house for The Genuine Hospitality Group’s first brunch event.  Enjoy 3 courses of multiple dishes served family-style, a choice between two special bottomless cocktails for the occasion, and a goody bag curated by Indulge magazine celebrating its new food issue with our chocolate truffles and more. It’s all included for $79 per person plus tax and gratuity. We are booking through ticketed reservations, so guests can pick an available time from 11am-3pm to indulge; it doesn’t all start at once. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS!

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TUESDAY 2/23 | It’s a battle of beer pairings at Harry’s Pizzeria as two of our favorite local breweries go head to head with a special menu chef Bradley as the playing field.  Join David Rodriguez of Wynwood Brewing Co. and Roberto Tito Ronchetta of Biscayne Bay Brewing Co., with Master of Slam Ceremonies Eric Larkee, The Genuine Hospitality Group Wine & Spirits Director presiding, for Harry’s first ever Beer Slam competition.  Be greeted with passed snacks and some brews to get the juices flowing, then enjoy three courses including dessert all paired with one beer from each brewery. Cast your vote for best pairing after each course, and we will crown a Harry’s Beer Slam Champion at the end! The prize? Winning brewery reigns over Harry’s four taps for the next month.  Here’s Bradley’s menu, but the brews will remain a mystery until the day of!  CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS!

Reception
3 passed snacks
Pizza
Selection of beers from both breweries

Slam
Course 1 – Paired with Beer 1
Crispy Pork Belly
citrus, shaved fennel, grain mustard

Course 2 – Paired with Beer 2
Braised Oxtail Terrine
pickled mulberries, almonds, sprouted barley

Dessert – Paired with Beer 3
Florida Blueberry Crostada
ginger crumble, malted malted milk ice cream

All The Genuine’s a Stage with TGHG Events

It’s summer, and we’re ready to help you party. Enjoy Michael Schwartz’s restaurants for your next event. The Genuine Hospitality Group Director of Special Events Lindsay Guidos will plan it — on or off site.  She’ll even make you pretty menus (^^) and send you samples to view as you’re figuring things out!  Email her at lindsay@thegenuinehospitalitygroup.com or call 203.313.4503. James Beard Award-winning food & hospitality, customizable prix-fixe menus for all occasions, and fully-staffed experiences with decor… amazing!  You can flood your smartphone right now with beautiful captures from past events by using the hashtag #TGHGevents on Instagram.

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Book an event with The Cypress Room by July 31 and receive a champagne toast for your party!  Our intimate dining room shines from the first glass of wine and amuse bouche to dessert, petit fours, and everything in-between. We can help craft your Cypress experience from a simple, elegant evening to a magical affair to remember.  The restaurant can accommodate seated dinner parties up to 45 guests, or reception-style up to 75 guests. The Beverage Book’s 124 wines and classic cocktails and spirits selection are at your disposal.

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MG_HP_e blast tile_escabeche3Michael’s Genuine offers fresh, simple, pure food and drink at home or on the road.  The restaurant can offer festivities for up to 150 guests as a buyout or separately in its bar room (18 seated or 35 standing cocktail party), main dining room (60), or outside patio (68.)  We event have a Brunch prix fixe party menu available with the special treats we do on Sundays made for your guests!

HP_HP_e blast tileHarry’s Pizzeria is all about fun and parties are no exception.  Michael’s casual neighborhood joint seats lunch or dinner parties for 40 inside, or 20 additional outdoors.  It’s a perfect fit for happy hour gatherings, pizza parties, bachelor parties, and more!  Menu options include snacks, salads, pizza and entrées from the wood-burning oven.

CHEERS TO AN EVENTFUL SUMMER!  We can help.

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