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.

Schwartz Readies His Beachside Manor Announcing New Restaurant at COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach

The back porch at lobby and restaurant level.

COMO, estás. Today Michael is excited to announce a partnership with COMO Hotels and Resorts to open a new restaurant at COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach later this year in the Traymore Restaurant and Gin Bar space at 2445 Collins Ave. In addition to rolling out new breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch menus, The Genuine Hospitality Group will oversee food and beverage throughout the property including in-room dining service. We have already begun to immerse ourselves in this beautiful new environment and are inspired to be back on Miami Beach where the spirit and soul is layered and strong. Opening is planned in time for the 2018-19 season.

“For us, it’s always about more than the food. But the food is really important!” Michael explains.  “We feel a kinship with what the COMO brand represents.  There is a commitment to both personalized service and reflecting the location of the property and its history in the space.  It’s about a holistic approach to creating a thoughtful experience for guests.”

As restaurant people, we are driven by the opportunity to create and feed off this energy, whether it’s an experience inside one of our existing spaces or developing a new one.  Despite the many projects that come across our desks, there are few that make sense to pursue — the right mix of timing, inspiration and resources, and of course how it impacts our people and the growth of the business at large.

COMO Metropolitan’s terrace, fronting a boardwalk the runs north between beach and the backyards of the buildings down Collins Ave (here facing south)

Name and concept will be announced soon, with an approach grounded in food you can feel good about eating, natural and balanced with global influences. Michael will collaborate with longtime partners at award-winning design firm Meyer Davis Studio – designers of Amara at Paraiso and the forthcoming restaurant at Park Grove – to refresh the space, celebrating its art deco past and the integrity of existing design elements.

The view from the pool (behind) back to the hotel (facing west).

COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach is a 74-room hotel occupying an original 1930s building located in the heart of the city’s famous art deco district. The hotel has direct access to the beach and a private swimming pool, two restaurants, and a COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa. Located on Collins Avenue and 24th Street, the views stretch across the Atlantic to the east or the Intracoastal Waterway to the west, flooding rooms with Miami Beach sunshine. Interiors are by the Italian designer Paola Navone, who preserved the hotel’s art deco heritage and contrasted it with an urbane, contemporary spirit in shades of peppermint green and dusky grey with surfaces of cool white marble and shining chrome. Traymore, the hotel’s headline restaurant, offers fine Floridian seafood and the signature Traymore Bar showcases over 30 artisanal gins. The COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa features four treatment rooms and a rooftop hydrotherapy pool.

The COMO Group, headquartered in Singapore, represents Christina Ong’s unique vision of contemporary living. The Group encompasses the hospitality collection, COMO Hotels and Resorts, which offers personalised luxury travel experiences through individualised service, a commitment to holistic wellness, and award-winning cuisine. Each hotel is developed in response to the destination it inhabits. The Group also includes the international luxury fashion retailer Club 21, the award-winning wellness concept COMO Shambhala, and the philanthropic COMO Foundation. Get a glimpse of their beautiful destinations and follow along for the adventures on Instagram @comohotels.

Genuine Pizza™ Opens at Aventura Mall on Tuesday, December 5

The first location of Chef’s casual pizza restaurant is opening just in time for Art Basel and the holiday season, ready to feed hungry shoppers of all kinds!  Genuine Pizza (formerly known as Harry’s Pizzeria) is located in the lower level, exterior of Aventura Mall’s newly opened expansion wing.  It’s been a long time coming and so exciting to experience the finishing touches as they unfold on the new restaurant design, as well as training with front and back of house teams.  We are passionate about our favorite food!

The evolved concept’s interior by Miami-based craft and construction firm McKenzie features light woods and simple accents like custom yellow and grey Cuban tile, orange chairs, and the yellow-tiled Marra Forni oven. The environment invites guests to experience the attention to detail first hand, at a pizza bar fronting the open kitchen and a glass-faced active dough room at the entrance where the recipe is mixed, kneaded and proofed daily.

Outdoor seating is flanked by garden planters and fronted by two distinct, dramatic works of art: Aventura Slide Tower – a 93-foot tall sculpture by German artist Carsten Höller that visitors will be able to slide down and Gorillas in the Mist – a whimsical fountain by The Haas Brothers comprised of three large-scale bronze gorillas and four massive bronze trees.

“Honest ingredients, chef-inspired combinations and a thoughtful process is what Genuine Pizza is all about. We are truly passionate about our favorite food,” says Schwartz. “We are so excited to connect with a new community to the north and thrilled to be able to add better pizza and warm genuine hospitality to the offerings in our new home.”

In an effort to always improve upon the quality and consistency of the pizza, Schwartz and The Genuine Hospitality Group executive chef Bradley Herron are working again with Marra Forni’s Rotator Oven. With its rotating deck of pure cut Italian stone, the oven retains and conducts consistent heat to bake pies evenly and quickly. While also serving as an active and beautiful focal point for the main dining room with its canary yellow tiles in the open oven station, the new hearth is calibrated specifically for the chef’s unique dough recipe.

The core menu including Snacks, Salads, Daily Entrées, 11 Quick-Fired Pizzas, the option of gluten-free crust, and Dessert. Genuine Pizza carefully selects the ingredients it uses, like Niman Ranch for all of its meats. For beverages, Genuine Pizza offers creative wine and beer selections, along with great local brands including Panther Coffee and JoJo Tea. A daily pie and soup special keep things unique for each visit. Fans can now give the gift of better pizza with electronic gift cards, available for purchase at genuinepizza.com – choose your denomination and send through email or phone.

Aventura Mall offers complimentary garage parking adjacent to the expansion wing, as well as valet. Seating is 77 inside at tables and banquettes in the main dining room, 20 at the counter and pizza bar, and 28 outside.  Genuine Pizza launches with lunch and dinner Sunday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 12 a.m. – no reservations necessary. Takeout with online ordering at genuinepizza.com will be available. To reach the restaurant, call (786) 472-9170 or email aventura@genuinepizza.com. Follow the new location and join the conversation @genuinepizza and #genuinepizza on Instagram.  When the restaurant opens on Tuesday, visit genuinepizza.com to access full menus, social media, sign up for e-newsletter for updates on upcoming openings like Atlanta (December) at Phipps Plaza.

The slide to scale all slides, in our front yard!

Genuine Pizza is thoughtfully-made, a place to enjoy a great meal with great people and without pretense. Genuine Pizza is about consideration of every detail of the dining experience, from the careful selection of ingredients, to the choices made in crafting dishes and the space in which you enjoy them. Being “genuine” is about making the experience better, not embellished – making food and crafting an environment that people feel good about and want to return to. The seed of Genuine Pizza is Harry’s Pizzeria®, first opened by Chef Michael Schwartz in 2011 and now with three South Florida locations. With inspiration from his flagship Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, Harry’s became a fixture of the Miami dining scene and nationally-recognized pizza hotspot, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 25 Best Pizzerias in the U.S. An evolution of the best of the original, Genuine Pizza celebrates its beloved, flagship menu anchored by 11 hand-formed pizzas featuring a tender, quick-fired crust with integrity, as well as a gluten-free option. At the table, the experience is complete with warm service and a wholesome dishes to make a meal, including snacks, colorful salads, daily specials and dessert. From the sidewalk to the dining room, the restaurant buzzes with friends and family hanging out over craft beer, a creative wine list and great music.

Aventura Mall features a collection of upscale boutiques, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Givenchy, Burberry and more, as well as more than 300 shopper favorites such as Zara, Topshop Topman, Apple, Anthropologie, H&M and Urban Outfitters. Visitors also enjoy nearly a dozen restaurants and a taste of South Florida’s thriving cultural scene with Arts Aventura Mall, featuring contemporary installations by renowned international and local artists. Aventura Mall is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Call (305) 935-1110 or visit online at www.aventuramall.com.

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.”

[VIDEO] Stewarding the Genuine Culture | Our Growing Restaurant Group’s Fall Job Fair is Today!

It’s that time again! We are excited to announce our fall job fair, which will take place TODAY, Thursday, October 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at our corporate headquarters, 3936 North Miami Avenue on the second floor (above Harry’s Pizzeria in the Miami Design District!)

Michael’s philosophy is simple, and it permeates every aspect of our business as stewarded by our people. Genuine is a thoughtful approach — not just making food that tastes great from quality ingredients, but a tireless, it-can-always-be-better attention to detail in every aspect of the dining experience.  We are laser focused on growing the company with great people who have a passion and desire to contribute to this Genuine Culture, and regular job fairs are a perfect way for representatives from each restaurant to meet with potential candidates to find the right fit! We are looking for dependable, reliable and professional staff members with great attitudes and personalities to join the team and help us be better at what we do. If this sounds like you and you’re inspired and motivated by a dynamic environment, apply in person with your resume.

The fair will recruit for all front and back of house positions including restaurant manager, bartender, reservationist, host/hostess, barista, pizza cook, line cook, sous chef, server, and busser. The Genuine Hospitality Group restaurants include Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink (fresh, simple, pure), ella (light and airy café), Amara at Paraiso (coming soon!) and Harry’s Pizzeria® (neighborhood American pizzeria) which is expanding to Aventura in November, in addition to its current three locations (Miami Design District, Coconut Grove and Kendall/Pinecrest in Downtown Dadeland). Join team Michael Schwartz!