The Role of Bread In An Elevated Dining Experience

Ahh, bread.

As a guest in a fine dining restaurant, either you love it or... you don’t understand it!

Has anyone ever advised to not eat too much bread, because it can ruin your appetite? Or, maybe you had that one friend who would refrain from eating the warm doughy loaf in hopes of maintaining or improve their figure. These mixed attitudes towards bread have left the ancient food with a negative reputation.

To restore that reputation, the rise of the "bread program” movement highlights the significant role of bread in an elevated dining experience.

“It’s incredibly important,” said Chef Marc Forgione, whose restaurant serves an elevated version of the classic potato roll, brushed with clarified butter, sprinkled with black salt and served with a side of caramelized onion butter. “It’s the first bite you have at the restaurant, so it’s the first impression you’re getting of our food and the experience.”

Traditionally, bread has always been part of fine dining (usually, at no extra cost.) But, when a bread program really shines, it’s because it offers something unique or of the best quality.

Bringing the best product forward to each guest takes extra time, effort and money. Some restaurants achieve this by producing fresh, house-made bread daily, while others, leave the job to local artisans who have mastered the craft and only worry about the logistics of getting the quality loaf to the patrons' table.

In some cases, restaurants may do a combination of both depending on their menu offerings.

This is the case for Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink (MGFD,) the flagship restaurant of James Beard award-winning chef and owner Michael Schwartz.

“We know that somebody else has better resources who does it to perfection. We like to promote those people, because they are doing something special,” says MGFD’s Pastry Chef Maria Garcia, referring to Miami-based artisans from Zak the Baker, La Parisienne Bakery and True Loaf that provide bread for the bread course and some sandwiches on the menu at Michael’s Genuine.

Avocado Toast with spicy crab, cilantro, lime, Zak's Rye #thisismgfd #mgfdbrunch

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Oof that's lunch. #mgfdlunch #pastramisandwich #falafel #mezze @zakthebaker 💗

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A lot of thought and effort goes into ensuring the best quality breads make it to guests’ tables, therefore the bread course at MGFD is offered for an extra charge.

“A lot of restaurants with our style of cooking are doing this nowadays, because in all honesty, it’s so much better to bring something that is actually really special that people can get excited about, and granted, yes, you have to pay, but it is so worth it,” said Chef Garcia, who attributes her love for bread to her family from Spain and her respect for its role in an elevated dining experience to Chef Michael Schwartz and Chef Bradley Heron.

“I think Schwartz and Brad have a really good philosophy and they have managed to teach it to all of us, so we can appreciate the good things,” added Chef Garcia.

Not only is Garcia in charge of confections as Michael Genuine’s pastry chef, but she also oversees the production house-made breads for MGFD and their sister restaurant cafe, Ella. These include: focaccia, pizza dough, pita bread, donuts, buns and bagels.

Her day begins at 6 a.m. at a commissary kitchen, where she spends the first three hours of her day.  An everyday task in the day-to-day prep list, is assuring the dough being fermented in bulk, is done so appropriately.

Soppressata Pizza 🍕🍕 crushed tomato, chile flake, honey, mozzarella #mgfdpizza #mgfdlunch

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#eggsandwich with grilled bacon & cheddar on a brioche #mgfdbrunch #michaelsgenuine #miamidesigndistrict #baconandeggs #sundaybrunch

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🍩🍩 cookies & cream donut #sobewff #thisismgfd #brunch #donutlovers 😍

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“The quality of your bread will rely on how well you ferment things and how they behave. So, we bulk ferment so the dough can develop a lot more flavors, so the alcohol doesn’t have that yeasty flavor. We like to give time for it to slow down and give time for the bacteria to grow, so it allows the bread to slowly ferment,” said Chef Garcia, who considers bread-making both an art and a science.

“It’s understanding the elements, their behavior and qualities as well as the artistic beauty of good bread.”

Foodable Labs ranked the following restaurants no. 1 in their respective cities when it came down to sentiment scores towards bread.

  • Portland - Le Pigeon
  • Miami - Michael's Genuine
  • New York - Marc Forgione
  • Denver - Work & Class
  • Chicago - Monteverde
  • Los Angeles - Animal

Watch the video to learn about other restaurants doing in-house bread!

Chef Q&A With Star-Studded Marc Forgione

Cheers to a fun brunch event yesterday with @remymartin at @bardot_lv! #remymartin #lasvegas #brunch

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The airing of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef: Season 3 finale, where Chef Marc Forgione was declared winner, is coming up on its seven year anniversary, in November.

“I came and I conquered,” said Chef Forgione (like a boss!) after winning the Thanksgiving Feast challenge against Chef Marco Canora.

Since then, Marc Forgione continues to man the kitchen at his Reade Street restaurant, by the same name, which he opened in New York City two years before competing on the show. He is keeping busy as the chef/owner of American Cut and Lobster Press, as well. He is also a partner/co-owner of Khe-yo, a unique restaurant serving up Lao cuisine in Tribeca. 

But when did he first fall in love with the culinary arts?

“I don’t know if there was a particular moment per se. I grew up around food and started cooking for myself at a very young age, so I would say I was born in love with cooking,” said Forgione who started working at his father’s restaurant, An American Place, at the early age of 16.

We caught up with the star-studded chef this week, to learn more about him and his cooking philosophy.

Happy Father's Day to Paps aka The Godfather

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How influential has been your father, the legendary Larry Forgione (called, The Godfather of American Cuisine,) been in your cooking style?

Forgione: Very…. Even today I still follow his mantra of using only the best, seasonal, local ingredients. You can’t make a bad ingredient taste great.

What do you attribute your culinary success to?

Forgione: A lot of hard work and being surrounded by supportive people.

What are three ingredients you love to cook with?

Forgione: Salt, pepper, and patience.

One ingredient you could not live without?

Forgione: Salt.

Your restaurant was actually top ranked using guest sentiment data by our sister company, Foodable Labs, as the most loved New York restaurant for bread. In your opinion, how important is the role of bread in an elevated fine dining experience?

Forgione: It’s incredibly important. It’s the first bite you have at the restaurant so it’s the first impression you’re getting of our food and the experience.

Can you describe the bread course at your restaurant and what sets it apart from your peers? Do you offer any gluten-free options?

Forgione: We do an elevated version of the classic potato roll served warm and brushed with clarified butter and sprinkled with black salt and served with a side of caramelized onion butter. We don’t at the moment offer any gluten-free bread but we do have starting options for guests with gluten-intolerance or allergies. We accommodate every and any allergy or dietary restriction as much as we can.

Any personal favorite menu items or something you'd suggest first-time visitors should try at Marc Forgione?

Forgione: We change the menu regularly to adjust to changing seasonal ingredients but my signature dishes that are always on the menu are Chicken-Under-A-Brick, Chili Lobster, Hiramasa Tartare, and Halibut en Croute.

In general, how important is quality at your restaurant? What do you do differently to uphold high standards?

Forgione: Quality is the most important thing at my restaurant from the food to service. I make sure to hire people who have the same level of standards as me and a real care for food and hospitality.

How did it feel to be the youngest American-born chef to receive the honor of receiving a Michelin star? After, did you feel any pressure to maintain the star?

Forgione: It was a huge honor. I actually didn’t believe it when I got the initial phone call. I thought it was my old chef playing a joke on me! I don’t really feel the pressure to get awards, in general. It’s, of course, nice to be recognized but at the end of the day, I just want to put out delicious food and make sure our guests are having a great experience at the restaurant.

Eggs Benny: it's what's for brunch at Restaurant Marc Forgione. 📷: @evansungnyc. #eggs #brunch

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We imagine that cooking for T.V. and cooking professionally are very different experiences. What did you learn from cooking competitively that has helped you grow as a chef?

Forgione: When you’re in the kitchen there’s a lot of time to plan and focus on each dish. When you’re competing, things don’t always go as planned and you need to make changes in seconds. So I’ve definitely learned a lot about improvising and "cooking on my feet."

Who is your culinary mentor?

Forgione: I’ve been lucky enough to work with several amazing chefs who have influenced me in many ways so it’s tough to just pick one.

What is your favorite restaurant to eat at when you aren’t working?

Forgione: Peasant.

Do you have any new concepts or projects in the works?

Forgione: Not at the moment, but I’m always open to new projects if it’s the right fit (hint hint!)