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.

Chef to Farm | Stagiaire Supper Comes Homestead

Reinvent, educate, take it home to where our heart is… Chef de cuisine Niven Patel has graciously volunteered to take the next generation of TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron’s Stagiaire Suppers under his wing at his new farmhouse in Homestead.

After a successful first seven suppers, and cooks sent to Greenhouse Tavern (Steve Martin,) SBRAGA (Milton Vega,) Barbuto (Ray Melendi,) Hot & Hot Fish Club (Juan Mayo,) NOMA (Akino West in 2014,) Blackbird (Gabe Rossi in September,) and Salvation Taco (Floyd Jones,) it is Head Line Cook Manuel Arredondo’s turn to get himself to Craft! Help us make it possible in as appropriate setting as any – Rancho Patel (!) – as Niven’s last raised garden beds are constructed and planted for season. Tickets are now live HERE.

IMG_8222.PNGWhen: Sunday, September 7
5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Where:
16800 SW 296th St.
Homestead, FL 33030
(allow 45 minutes travel time)
What: Please join us for genuine staff meal cooked by one of our own so they can travel to stage at a great chef’s restaurant.
$50 includes:
– Welcome Cocktail
– Passed HD
– 3 courses served family style including dessert
– A number of awesome wines
RSVP: Please say yes to Bradley with cash if you see him or conveniently use your credit card through Brown Paper Tickets here.
Why: Your contribution will go to send Manny to stage with Tom Colicchio’s team at Craft in NYC!

Stagiaire Supper Three at Bradley’s House: New York, New York Edition

SchwartzWaxy

Schwartzy and Waxy, so happy together! Waxman popped up his famed New York City restaurant, Barbuto, at Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami last year.

“Schwartz, you can stage at Barbuto anytime!” Jonathan Waxman emailed yesterday in response to our request for the legendary chef to host a stagiaire from the MGFD kitchen in Miami at Barbuto, his iconic West Village temple to authentic Italian cuisine. But to Michael’s dismay, he won’t be the one getting the experience of a lifetime working alongside Jdubs and his team as crisp and juicy Bell & Evans birds fly in and out of the restaurant’s magnificent wood-burning oven, seasonal veggies and housemade gnocchi get all family-style friendly, and spontaneous dance parties erupt on tables in the dining room courtesy of manager of many hats and #Ateam leader to the north, Jennifer Davidson.  No, Schwartzy, sadly it’s not your lucky day, but rather Ray Melendi’s, an intern we will miss dearly as he relocates to the Big Apple after his stage to attend culinary school.  Now that’s a send-off, if I’ve ever seen one!  It’ll be hard work, but someone’s gotta do it. Represent us well, Ray!

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink chef de cuisine Bradley Herron cordially invites you to participate in his third family-style meal with a purpose.  Inspired by Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, Yes: Chef, Bradley cooked up a dinner series to raise money to send one of his line cooks away to stage for a few days with a great chef. The idea is simple. Get 30 people to each spend $50 on a family style dinner in his own home, cooked by a stage hopeful with lots of help and donations from The Genuine Hospitality Group family to put it on. After two successful dinners, and stages in Jonathon Sawyer’s and soon to be Kevin Sbraga’s kitchens, the third dinner is in motion!  Help us make it possible. Please say yes to Bradley with cash if you see him at MGFD or purchase your ticket through Brown Paper Tickets with credit card.  Your contribution will go to send Ray Melendi to New York City to stage with legendary chef Jonathan Waxman at Barbuto. Holy shnikes!

When: Sunday, January 27, 5-8:00 p.m.

Where: Hosted by chef de cuisine Bradley Herron at his home
411 Northeast 52nd Terrace (Morningside) Miami, FL

What: Please join us for meal cooked by one of our own so they can travel to stage at a great chef’s restaurant.

$50 includes:
– Welcome Cocktail
– Snacks
– 3 courses including dessert, served family-style
– Wines of a few kinds
– Fun in good company
– A warm fuzzy feeling

Ray’s Menu:

Welcome
Kumquat ginger caiperna

Hors d’oeuvres
Oysters  preserved lemon mignonette, chive
Charred Octopus Skewers
Carrot Crostini  caramelized carrot and harissa puree, goat cheese, chervil

First course
BLT Salad  heirloom tomato, local greens, bacon lardons, avocado-herb dressing

Second course
Coq au Vin  mushrooms, thyme, sage
Sauteed Kale  chili flake, garlic

Dessert
Basil Ice Cream  local strawberries, olive oil cookie, pink peppercorns

Stagiaire Supper Two: Eat, Drink & Be Merry to Send a Stage to Get Sbraga’d

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Part of the amazing spread that was the inaugural Stagiaire Supper at Brad’s house in November.

Dear Genuine Kitchen Readers,

After a successful first dinner, travel plans are set for our first stage Steve Martin to work in Jonathon Sawyer’s kitchen for a week in Cleveland from December 14-19. While the cat’s away, we’ll be putting on our second dinner as line cook Milton Vega gets his turn to learn and burn in a Harry’s Chef Pop-Up Series alum’s kitchen — and this time it’s nitro-laced!  Yes, we are speaking of one Kevin Sbraga and his eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia, Schwartz’s hometown. Milton’s got to work for this honor, so he’s putting together a Mediterranean feast with whole snappers and more on the menu.  We now have a ticket option to donate, if you’d like to support, but can’t make the dinner.  Food is home-cooked and served family-style, a guaranteed delicious combination.  Tickets are now live, here, where we will post the menu as soon as it is final… Please help us sell out numero dos, like we did with numero uno!

Stagiaire Supper_logo

When: Sunday, December 15, 5-7:30 p.m.
Where: hosted by chef de cuisine Bradley Herron at his home
411 Northeast 52nd Terrace (Morningside) Miami, FL
What: Please join us for meal cooked by one of our own so they can travel to stage at a great chef’s restaurant.
$50 includes:
Welcome Cocktail + Snacks
3 courses including dessert, served family-style
Wine
RSVP: Please say yes to Bradley with cash or Brown Paper Tickets with credit card.  Your contribution will go to send Milton Vega to Philadelphia for a stage with chef Kevin Sbraga, winner of Top Chef season 7 and chef/owner of Sbraga restaurant.

[UPDATED] Enjoy Sunday Supper & Support a Stagiaire

Update: Photos from the amazing first dinner are here! Yum yum. Great job Steve!

Hi Genuine Kitchen Readers. It’s not often we come to you with requests, so we’re sharing one now in the hopes that you get it – like we did – and feel the love enough to support the cause.  Chef de cuisine Bradley Herron, whom you may have seen featured in yesterday’s Tasting Table Sous Chef Series, came up with this great idea for his Miami cooks inspired by Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, Yes: Chef. After hosting his Miami release party in our private dining room in July, we read the memoir.  In it, chef Samuelsson recalls a dinner he hosted at his home to raise money to send one of his line cooks away to stage for a few days with a great chef from his past, from whom he, as a young cook, learned a great deal.  Thanks to Michael’s amazing relationships, we are now able to do the same, and Bradley cooked up an offer to make it happen. Get 30 people to each spend $50 on a family style dinner in his own home, cooked by a stage hopeful, in Sunday’s case, line cook Steve Martin, with lots of help and donations from the genuine family to put it on…  The proceeds then go to send Steve, appropriately, to work in Jonathon Sawyer’s kitchen for a week, a favorite chef of ours who popped at Harry’s in the spring and left his chef behind to stage with us in the genuine kitchen for a week.  The genuine exchange will now be complete with your help.  See below, and the menu above, and let us know if have any questions. I’m on centerpiece duty and ticket sales (please click below or pay Brad in cash if you see him at the restaurant!)
Thanks for your support and readership!
Jackie

Stagiaire Supper
a genuine staff meal

When: Sunday, November 4, 5-7:30 p.m.
Where: hosted by chef de cuisine Bradley Herron at his home
411 Northeast 52nd Terrace (Morningside) Miami, FL
What: Please join us for meal cooked by one of our own so they can travel to stage at a great chef’s restaurant.
$50 includes:
Welcome Cocktail + Snacks
3 courses including dessert, served family-style
Wine
RSVP: Please say yes to Bradley with cash or Brown Paper Tickets with credit card.
Your contribution will go to send Steve Martin to Cleveland for a stage with chef Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern.