Niman Ranch Asks Chef Bradley Herron Some Questions. We Are All Ears.

Brad with Chef in Iowa in September, getting the Niman Ranch slow roasted pork shoulder ready.

Although the word chef isn’t in his title, Bradley Herron embodies what it means to be a cook at The Genuine Hospitality Group. Our Director of Culinary began as line cook at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in 2009 and now oversees all the chefs and menus in the company’s 10 restaurants and Michael Schwartz Events catering.

His role is multi-faceted and providing continuity and oversight of sourcing is key — from dry and paper goods to perishable product, including a constant re-evaluation of how we can do better on quality and cost while serving Michael’s vision and culture.  It’s a tall order.  Part of this process is cultivating longstanding relationships with suppliers like Niman Ranch.  In follow up to September’s visit to Iowa for the Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner, the team posted an interview with Brad we wanted to share here — a small but important way we can recognize the person behind hard work and dedication not always visible but essential to the function and spirit of our kitchens and hospitality at the table.  We appreciate how Brad to clearly explains why things are done in certain ways versus others.  Most importantly, we count on him for his pragmatic insight on what it means to be creative as a cook — and a photo bomb or two, especially when he’s the subject!

Q&A With Chef Bradley Herron
from The Niman Ranch Blog

Q: Where did you grow up?
Southern California

Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
It’s my only career choice. I started when I was 14 and liked the way things work in the restaurant – High energy, fast pace, different every day. So, when I was a senior in high school, I had three restaurant jobs and decided to go to culinary school at the California Le Cordon Bleu to become a chef.

At Osteria in Philly, celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Q: How did you hear about Niman Ranch?
Back in southern California, my first restaurant job used Niman Ranch beef and pork. When I came to Miami, it was a name that everyone knew and it resonated with customers. When you get product from Niman it’s always great.

Q: What inspired you to care about sustainably and humanely raised beef, pork and lamb and, in turn, support family farmers?
It’s the right move and kind of the norm now. It’s about our children and our children’s children. It’s easier to do now because there is a lot more awareness, especially in California. But the quality is better and you feel better about it because it’s something you believe in while helping farmers.

2010, Slow Food Miami’s Ark of Taste Dinner

Q: Do your customers care about where you source your ingredients? Why do you think this is the case?
Yes and no. We brought Niman Ranch into one of the cruise ships we consult for and no one seemed to care. In Miami at Michael’s Genuine, our farm to table restaurants, people ask. Our reputation is built on transparent sourcing and people trust us more. If you are in California, everyone asks!

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?
I get asked that question often, but I don’t have that scripted yet. We’ve been on an 80% growth rate for the last few years and opening a lot more restaurants. I see myself being in a similar environment doing similar things. For me, if I don’t like something, I’m going to change it and do something else. But I like what I’m doing and I’m going to keep doing that.

Cooking in the back of ella for a pop up dinner in 2015.

Q: What is your most memorable experience with a Niman Ranch product?
It was recent. It was when I went to the hog farmer appreciation dinner in Des Moines. I went with Chef Michael Schwartz, and at the end of the dinner, I spoke in front of everyone – all 600 people, about the importance of what the farmers do and how they raise their animals with such care and compassion. The farm tour was great and I have a lot of special memories from that weekend.

2016, getting ready to open Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz in Miami.

Q: What person would you most like to cook for?
My grandma Nana, who is no longer around. When I was young, she was always there with me cooking. I was probably around three to four years old and I have memories of her and the food we made together.

Q: What did you have for dinner last night?
It was Monday, so every Monday, religiously, I have a whole roasted chicken with sweet potatoes and a salad. It’s a staple to start the work week and it’s good to have roast chicken in the fridge. My wife doesn’t cook so I set her up with a big batch of things like brown rice or roasted vegetables on Monday night. She can fend for herself when I’m in the restaurant all week.

Q: What is your favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
The iPhone. There are so many ways that the iPhone has revolutionized cooking and everything in general. It’s an important tool nowadays. If you think about every dilemma you have in the kitchen, the iPhone can solve it. For me, if someone tells me to cook something that I’ve never cooked, I usually Google it and if you watch enough videos, you can be pretty good at cooking something the first time.

At Michael’s Genuine as TGHG executive chef.

Q: Are there any foods you don’t like?
Poorly made food. Anything can be good, but if something is poorly made, it’s always going to be bad.

Q: What do you love most about your job as a chef?
It’s hard to pick just one. I guess, being where I am now, I have a lot of younger, next generation cooks and chefs coming through the ranks. Teaching them and showing them the ropes is probably the most rewarding thing. We operate 10-11 restaurants and will open five more in the next six months, I’ve probably opened 22-23 restaurants in the last nine years. So, there are a lot of chefs and cooks that I work with. It’s a pretty cool thing to teach someone something and be able to look back and say, “I helped them do that.”

Q: If you were to open a new restaurant, what style of food would you pick?
Simple foods that change daily.

Q: If you weren’t a chef, what would you do for a living?
A farmer however cooking is all I know and all I want to do, so that’s hard.

Q: Most embarrassing cooking moment?
When I was first starting out, I think I was 15, I got a real restaurant job in a hotel with real chefs. One had me break down lobsters and asked if I knew how to do it. I didn’t, so he showed me in like 12 seconds, then he gave me 20 of them. He came back after 3 hours and I was still on the second one and it was completely butchered and a huge mess. That would probably be my most embarrassing cooking moment.

[Recipe] A Niman Ranch Pizza 20 Years in the Sausage-Making

We fancy sausage. Italian sausage. With peppers and onions. And some mozzarella and sauce too!

When it comes to sausage-making, we are all eyes if the link is Niman Ranch.  Over the years we have gotten to know Sarah Willis and her humanely and sustainably-raised beef, lamb and pork at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and most recently Genuine Pizza® and Harry’s Pizzeria®.  We believe so strongly in Willis’ mission that we made a commitment last year to exclusively source all our pizzerias’ pork and beef from Niman Ranch and have since then rolled out new menu items like Italian Sausage Pizza so our guests have more ways to enjoy them.  On special occasions, we are able to experience the roots of where it all began in person and reaffirm why we do what we do in the first place.  Next month we will have another such opportunity at the 20th annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner celebrating the farmers living Niman Ranch’s mission on the ground with a feast cooked by a handful of its favorite supportive chefs.

Click here to watch culinary assistant Brandon Green make the sausage pie shine at Genuine Pizza Aventura.

“When I was first invited to visit the original Willis family farm and cook at the 2011 hog farmer appreciation dinner, going there and seeing where it all started that was the ah ha moment for me,” Michael explains. “We work really hard to operate our restaurants and create experiences for guests – and take care of our people. It’s all consuming. When we can get out and make a personal connection it really is everything, especially having enjoyed working with their ingredients for so long and in so many different ways.”

From September 6-9, Michael, Brad and I will make a trip to Iowa for a weekend of activities that connect the dots between source and recipient culminating in Saturday’s feast, a collaboration with chefs including Cal Peternell, Andrea Reusing, Ann Kim, Charles Phan and Todd Fisher.  Follow along on the Michael’s Genuine Instagram for an inside look at the people and the place that makes us feel good about this Italian Sausage Pizza in more ways than just taste.  Make it at home or enjoy it at a Genuine Pizza or Harry’s Pizzeria near you!

Italian Sausage Pizza with Peppers & Onions, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella

Makes 1, 12-inch pizza

1 ball Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (use your favorite)
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup sliced roasted red bell pepper
1/4 cup yellow onions, sautéed until translucent
1/2 cup Niman Ranch Italian Sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick on the bias

Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Place pizza stone or baking pan on the middle rack and preheat it along with the oven for at least a good 20 minutes.

To prepare 1, 12-inch pizza, dip the ball of dough into a little flour, shake off the excess, and put the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough with your hands, turning the ball as you press down the center. Continue spreading the dough into a 12-inch circle either with your hands or a rolling pin. Leave the dough slightly thick so the topping does not seep through. Dust a pizza paddle (if you don’t have a paddle you can use a rimless cookie sheet as a substitute) with flour and slide it under the pizza dough; it’s easiest to top the pizza with the dough already on the paddle. Using the back of a large spoon, and starting from the center and spiraling your way out, distribute the tomato sauce in a thin, even layer. You want to see some of the dough peeking through. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, then the peppers and onions and finally the sausage. Slide the prepared pizza onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet and bake until the crust is properly browned, about 10 minutes. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it has been cooked properly—it should be rich brown and burnished. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into slices. Serve immediately.

Pizza Dough

Makes enough dough for 4, 12-inch pizzas

½ cup (120 ml) beer, such as lager or pilsner, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (1/4 ounces/7 g) packet active dry yeast
3 cups plus 6 tablespoons (455 g) bread flour, plus more for stretching the dough
1/3 cup (40 g) whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

In a small bowl combine the beer and honey with 1 cup (240 ml) room temperature water. The beer will foam a great deal when being poured into the measuring up, so let the foam subside before adding more liquid to get to the right volume. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until it starts to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine both types of flour and the salt. With the mixer running on low speed, add the oil, then the yeast mixture, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. The dough should pretty sticky and stick to your hands and the counter. It should leave behind a sticky trail; if you think the dough is a bit too wet, it is probably just perfect. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl; turn it over to coat with the oil. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Gently punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight and for up to 48 hours. (You can start the dough the night before you plan to make the pizza.)

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured counter and knead gently for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal balls, about 8 ounces (225 g) each—the size of large tangerines. Roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm. Use immediately or wrap the dough balls individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks. If using right away, lightly dust the dough with four, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Let the dough come to room temperature, for about 1 hour, before using.

Three New Ways to Focaccia at Harry’s Pizzeria®… Genuine Sandwiches!

Mark your calendars, Miami!  After rolling out at Genuine Pizza® Aventura and Atlanta, three new sandwiches are closing in on the tender, freshly-baked focaccia at a Harry’s Pizzeria location near you.  You’re going to need both hands!

Chicken Pesto, Fresh & Roasted Veggie and Meatball launch next Tuesday, July 24 for $12 each in Downtown Dadeland, and the following Tuesday, July 31 Coconut Grove and Miami Design District.  Along with the new Sandwiches section, more new menu items include two new tasty pies, Italian Sausage and Four Cheese & SpinachBaby Spinach Salad with tomato, walnuts, roasted red peppers, egg and bacon tossed in a creamy feta dressing, and Red Pepper Cheese Dip, a beer-worthy snack to spread on toasty focaccia soldiers.

Visit the Harry’s Pizzeria’s Instagram to watch how the Sausage Pizza and Meatball Sandwich are made, featuring super delicious, high quality pork and beef you can feel good about eating from Niman Ranch (rasied with care!)

 

Hands! You Might Need Both for 3 New Focaccia Sandwiches at Genuine Pizza

A tasty line up of new dishes are in the window at Genuine Pizza, including a first for Michael’s pizzeria menu… sandwiches!  Featuring our fresh-baked focaccia, three roasty, toasty bundles offer a favorite for everyone including Chicken Pesto, Meatball and Fresh & Roasted Veggie.  You’ll find them beginning today for $12 at both Aventura and Atlanta locations, in addition to two new pizzas — Italian Sausage and Four Cheese with Spinach, a Baby Spinach Salad, and punchy Roasted Red Pepper Spread, a snack served with focaccia soldiers.

Yeah, baby. New Spinach Salad with tomato, walnuts, roasted red peppers, egg, bacon, feta dressing.

“We’re always looking for ways to make the menu better,” says Bradley Herron, TGHG Culinary Director. “Everything’s on the table, all the time.  We felt like there was an opportunity to take a look at the things we love as much as our guests, and build on that in new ways.  We spend a lot of time and energy making really delicious focaccia in house and wanted to highlight it more, so developing a few sandwiches just made good sense.”

Sourcing all beef and pork from Niman Ranch is one such opportunity.  Spicy Pepperoni and Short Rib are among the most popular items on the Genuine Pizza menu period, let alone pizzas, so the team developed the Meatball Sandwich and Italian Sausage Pizza to showcase their responsible-raised, high quality products in a delicious new format.

Visit genuinepizza.com for the menu including new items, restaurant hours and locations, and to order online for delivery or takeout.

Pepperoni Pizza? Yes, Please.

March Madness! What’s more important in the world of pizza than the pepperoni pie?  It’s the ultimate expression of the iconic American pizzeria.  The go-to slice.  What you think of when you think pizza. It’s what the people want who love a perfectly unadulterated pie, like we do.  So after much trial and little error to get the toppings combination just right, we are introducing our first Pepperoni to the pizza menu at Genuine Pizza™ and Harry’s Pizzeria® effective today.  Not such a crazy idea, after all…

Spicy Pepperoni is now available for $16 at all locations in Atlanta and Miami with tomato sauce, chile oil, fontina, mozzarella and arugula.  The magic mix honors the original in its pure form taking it to the next level with a blend of mozzarella and fontina cheeses for just the right creaminess and stretch, some chile oil-flecked tomato sauce for a little punch and leafy, peppery and crisp arugula that melts into the gooey bed of deliciousness.

This pizza is all about the beautiful Niman Ranch product at the end of the day, sliced to just the right thickness for a crispy, juicy bake. Took us long enough!  Visit genuinepizza.com and harryspizzeria.com for locations and hours near you and to order the Pepperoni Pizza online for takeout or delivery through one of our partners including Uber Eats, Amazon Restaurants and Door Dash.