Food Halls Go Big
For anyone who has had the distinct pleasure of visiting a food hall in France, that person will understand the distinct difference between a food hall and a food court.
Les Halles de Lyon, for instance, is an indoor food market in Lyon, France, a 2-hour ride on the fast train from Paris. The Guardian refers to Lyon as the “gastronomic capital of the world,” and with more than 60 gourmet food merchants, Les Halles is the place where top chefs, as well as consumers, go to peruse and buy top quality foods and ingredients. There are fantastic breads, pastries, cheese, oyster bars, jamon bars, salads, meat, snails, macarons, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolates, and everything else in between.
By comparison, the food scene in the United States has been defined for many years by the food court. At Kansas City’s massive Oak Park Mall, for example, shoppers can grab a chocolate chip cookie at the Nestle Toll House Café, a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s or a pepperoni slice at Original Pizza, which is anything but original.
But lately America’s appreciation for fine foods is catching up, and with this movement has ushered in the landmark arrival on a grander scale of the quintessential food hall. According to industry reports, at least 24 major food halls opened across the country last year, and many more are coming down the road. And gourmet bakeries are taking note. They are finding a new home, and most importantly a profitable place to do business. It turns out there are a lot more “foodies” in America than originally thought, and many are turning out in droves at food halls to enjoy the convenience of one-stop gourmet shopping.
At a bakery café inside Chicago’s new food fall Latinicity, which opened in November 2015, customers can buy individual pastries like alfajores, a popular cookie in Argentina that typically contains a filling of dulce de leche. The cookies are somewhat like French macarons in appearance, but the flavors are distinctively different. Founded by Lucila Giagrande, Lucila's Homemade was started out of her desire to bring to America the treats Lucila grew up with in Argentina. Lucila's alfajores are handcrafted using unique artisanal techniques. Each cookie starts with the simple ingredients of cornstarch, flour, sugar, eggs and butter.
So Chicago is being introduced to the many flavors of Mexico and other Hispanic countries at a new downtown food destination called Latinicity. During the opening weekend, the pan-Hispanic inspired food hall, which was developed by acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, was so popular that it had to temporarily stop service at its multitude of restaurants after being swamped by more than 10,000 visitors.
Likewise in New York City, food halls are carving out a unique sweet spot in the marketplace. New York retailer Dough, the increasingly popular donut shop that serves gourmet flavors like hibiscus donuts, has opened a new place inside the new Times Square food hall City Kitchen. City Kitchen brings New York’s most desired and hyped food concepts to the bull’s eye of Manhattan – Times Square. Visitors and locals can delight in the city’s best dishes – without having to travel to taste them. No neighborhood has been left unturned, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side – and everywhere in between.
Dough was founded in 2010 by chef Fany Gerson as a celebration of the donut. Inspired by her Mexican heritage as well as European influences, Fany set out to craft an iconic version of this classic treat. After months of work in the kitchen perfecting her recipe, Fany now provides the world with a unique, refined donut that strikes the right balance of flavor and texture.
Plaza Food Hall
New York City is home to many groundbreaking food halls, and one of the shining examples is located across from Central Park. Located on the concourse level of the iconic Plaza Hotel, The Plaza Food Hall offers a collection of fine food purveyors, as well as counter-style dining options. Bakeries and chocolate shop dominate the list of tenants, including Billy’s Bakery, La Maison du Chocolat, Lady M Confections, Pain Davignon and the legendary FP Patisserie by François Payard.
“Being across from Central Park is great for tourist foot traffic. I like to think that the Plaza Food Hall helps create enough brand exposure to generate some online sales for my macarons,” says Payard, one of the greatest pastry chefs in America, in an exclusive interview with bake magazine. “The relationship with all of the vendors in the Food Hall is also great. Everyone is promoting the brand and doing cross promotions.”
Born in Nice on July 1966, Payard is a third generation French pastry chef. He cultivated his passion for the art of pastry as a child in his grandfather’s acclaimed shop on the Riviera, Au Nid des Friandises. François grew up surrounded by the delicious classic French pastry in the tradition carried on by his parents and grandparents for over fifty years.
After honing his skills in classic pastry by his family’s side, François moved to Paris where he learned the artistry and refinement of transforming traditional desserts into exquisite plated presentations. Their taste, texture and originality opened new horizons in his career. François’s dedication and passion earned him positions in several of France’s finest kitchens. In 1988, Payard held his first position as pastry chef in Paris at La Tour d’Argent. The following year, he went on to become pastry chef in the kitchen of Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton. In these renowned restaurants, he met the challenge of creating dessert menus worthy of a three-star Michelin rating.
François’s desire to travel and discover new sights, smells, and flavors brought him to New York in 1990. Here, he was eager to experiment with new ideas, flavors, and techniques that he felt would be welcomed in the capital of cosmopolitan tastes. His first position in New York was as pastry chef at Le Bernardin, a New York Times four-star restaurant, where he found himself challenged to create a new dessert repertoire. François became popular for his beautifully presented creations, bursting with delicate flavors and taste. In 1993, Payard joined chef Daniel Boulud for the opening of Restaurant Daniel, another restaurant given four stars by the New York Times, where he delighted guests with his chocolate and seasonal fruit menus. In 1995, The James Beard Foundation named Payard “Pastry Chef of the Year” in recognition of his accent on flavor combined with a unique sense of pastry design.
François was acknowledged in 1998 for his outstanding achievements by being awarded “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the Bon Appétit Food & Entertainment Awards and again in 2001 by the International Pastry Competition Committee-Beaver Creek. In July 2004, The French Government honored François with the prestigious Ordre du Mérite Agricole, Medal of Honor by the French Government. And in 2005, he received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for having one of the most outstanding wine lists of any restaurant on the globe as well as being selected in 2006 as a member of Relais Desserts International a professional association of the 85 Best Pastry Chefs in the World.
FP Patisserie is the luxury high-end brand from Payard, featuring cakes, pastries, tarts, chocolates and confections made from only the finest ingredients. The flagship location of FP Patisserie is found on the upper east side of Manhattan, and is divided into three distinct sections: the pastry shop, the bar and the dining area.
From the sidewalk, window shoppers and customers alike may see the artfully arranged pastry displays and colorful macaron collection, thoughtfully arranged in custom glass display cases accented with the quintessential “Payard Orange” colored marble. Additionally, all of the merchandise is openly displayed on custom created dark wood bookcases, as if being featured in a library.
“My pastry menu is consistent with a market menu,” Payard says. “We try to create a new eclair every month, keeping seasonal fruits in mind. Then for autumn, we stick to pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, etc. Chocolate is incorporated in my pastries year round but during the summer I try to highlight summer fruits instead of chocolate typically.”
His favorite flavor combinations are dark chocolate, caramel and salted peanuts (very American), passion fruit and raspberry, and pistachio and cherry. “When you use too many flavors, the identity of each flavor gets lost. I try to keep it simple,” he says.
Looking toward the future, Payard says he thinks things in the restaurant setting will go back to highlighting the freshness of ingredients. “Maybe a focus on locally sourced, organic produce. For bakeries, I think that the future is rooted in simplicity. For example, instead of a pastry chef creating something crazy like a savory sticky bun, he or she will capitalize on tradition and precision. The best sticky bun you've ever had! Simplicity is key in both pastry settings.”
A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City. Chelsea Market is a neighborhood market with a global perspective.
There are a half dozen bakeries located in the Chelsea Market, including Davidovich Bakery, which opened a retail store here in January 2016.
As a child, Gene Davidovich delighted in the robust aromas of baked bread. They wafted from his Grandma Zoya's kitchen, where the future entrepreneur eagerly observed old-fashioned preparation methods and tasted generations-old recipes.When he immigrated to America in 1980 he had a dream of one day having a bakery that would delight people with the quality of their products. After graduating in 1992 from college with a background in business and nutrition, he proceeded to bake at home with the help of his grandmother and introduce the products to some of the stores in the neighborhood.
While all products were well received, the bagels had special interest. In 1998 Davidovich began to grow the business by baking the bagels and having them delivered to wholesale accounts. He took special care to hire and train hand rollers and bakers that were able to produce product to his specification and strict controls. This is how Davidovich Bakery was founded in 1998 and has been a family business since.
At Amy’s Bread, a New York City institution since 1992, which has several locations including one in Chelsea Market, the retail/wholesale bakery’s commitment to simple but premium ingredients is as strong as its iconic brand. They buy local and organic ingredients, when possible, and always use local dairy products and eggs, and local seasonal fruit.
“I like the fact that the products are appealing and accessible to all kinds of people,” says Amy Scherber, who is the owner and founder of Amy’s Bread, a nationally recognized bakery/cafe that specializes in hand-made, traditional breads, sandwiches, sweets and old-fashioned layer cakes.
Many of her breads feature local New York State flour, a message that is communicated to customers on signage in the store. “We source our quality ingredients the same way we buy groceries for our families – using only natural ingredients, with no artificial additives. Our goal is to delight our customers with a wide range of products – some are healthful and some are indulgent. All of them are treats!”
Much of Amy’s Bread success can be attributed to a longstanding commitment to transparency of ingredients to loyal customers. Sweet treats like Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti list all ingredients right on front of the package. Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, for instance, is made with hazelnuts, sugar, unbleached flour, chocolate chips, eggs, cocoa powder, butter, vanilla, coffee extract, baking soda and cinnamon.
Today, with a production kitchen in Long Island City and three retail cafes in New York City, the business has grown in 24 years from five to 190 employees, and the bakery delivers to more than 200 wholesale customers daily. “I consider it a big accomplishment to start a business in New York City,” she adds, “and to have it thrive and grow in a very challenging marketplace.”
At Creamline, another prominent retailer with a Chelsea Market Location, the focus is on “farm to tray” foods, including breakfasts and sandwiches. The retailer sources products from farms and producers like Ronnybrook Farm, “where we have actually met and hand fed the cows that produce the great Hudson Valley dairy served here today. We make it our mission to support as many local businesses as possible; ethical businesses that strive to offer the finest and freshest small batch products.”
Chelsea Market’s Creamline is run by chef/owner Harris Mayer Sellinger, who points out the importance of returning to classic American roots.
“We have a pretty set menu of American classics,” Sellinger says. “It's designed for consistency based on what our farmers and suppliers can get to us year-round. It's geared towards satisfying our loyal customers who work or live in Chelsea, and the thousands of tourists who come to have a world class representation of American classics. A grass-fed burger or grilled cheese sandwich with a grass-fed milk shake creates a synergy of flavors. The hot and cold contrast, and the sweet and savory contrast, are all on display when you have a burger with a shake.”
Remaining true to our "Farm to Tray" mantra, and sourcing from local farms, like Ronnybrook, and Righteous Organics, and pole caught American tuna, is the best way to make great food that they are proud of.
“Many our customers are not from America, and we want to represent American Classics as best we can; it is very exciting, and pretty common that we hear from people "this is my first cheeseburger," or better yet, this is the best cheeseburger I've ever had! We are a gateway to American food for many of our guests, and this motivates us every day. We are proud of American food, and we want to dispel the perception created by international chain restaurants that it is low quality. A cheeseburger and a grilled cheese sandwich is an amazing thing, and it deserves the same care in technique and sourcing as other “fancier" foods.
Sellinger says that responsible sourcing will become the standard in coming years. “In major cities, we are almost there right now. The best example right now is McDonalds switching to fresh meat. This is a huge shift, and they are delivering what the market demands; very encouraging.”
Chefs have long known that the quality of your meal is determined most by the sourcing, Sellinger says, and that the true heroes of great food are the farmers. “Fine dining has known this for years and were ahead of the curve. Now, casual restaurants are catching up, fast.”
Being located in the Chelsea Market benefit both their brand and provides widespread exposure to the public.
“We are so lucky to be in an international destination for good food,” Sellinger says. “People from all over the world come to our restaurant in search of the best New York City has to offer. This raises the bar and we see it as our responsibility to deliver to our guests the best food we can. The more our guests care, the more they will appreciate how much we care.”
Destined to become one of the world's most visited retail destinations and a landmark instantly identifiable in lower Manhattan and New York City, Westfield celebrated the grand opening of its World Trade Center location on Tuesday, August 16. Westfield World Trade Center is home to one of the most diverse retail collections in New York City, restaurant concepts created by world-class chefs, high-profile events and entertainment.
Alongside Eataly's newest marketplace which celebrates authentic Italian flavors, the art of fine food preparation and the joy of eating well— the property includes fresh food/gourmet grocer Market Lane, the renowned London steakhouse Hawksmoor (slated for future opening), bakeries and sweets from Lady M. and Epicerie Boulud, plus artisanal coffees, pop-ups, and first-to-market restaurateurs.
Épicerie Boulud is acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud's new concept for eat-in and take-out market. The Épicerie offers the chef's signature house made charcuterie alongside our own soups, salads, made to order sandwiches, fresh baked breads and more, in addition to artisanal cheeses, courtesy of Saxelby Cheesemongers. The market serves breakfast and lunch, and gelati, pastry and coffee in the afternoon.