Preparing traditional Jewish deli meats is no easy process. Though a bright red slice of pastrami or dark, moist piece of tongue might look simple by the time it’s served on rye, meats like these have already spent up to several weeks soaking in brine, curing in a chilly walk-in, hanging up to dry or smoking in a precisely-tuned machine.
Noah Bermanoff, chef and co-owner of Mile End Deli in Brooklyn and Mile End Sandwich shop in Manhattan, is intimately familiar with this labor-intensive practice. He’s been serving up exemplary cured and smoked meats at his Brooklyn flagship since 2010.
“It’s not like making a hamburger,” Bermanoff said of his product. “It doesn’t just happen overnight,” he added.
So when Hurricane Sandy wiped out the restaurant’s custom-tailored production kitchen located on Red Hook’s Pier 41 last October, Bermanoff and his team had to make some tough decisions, fast: how were they going to prepare their signature pastrami without a working smoker? Where were they going to hang and cure their meats without access to the kitchen’s 6,500 square feet? How were they going to continue baking bread and bagels now that their oven was destroyed?
Just weeks before Hurricane Sandy devastated low-lying areas of the northeast, Brigitte Mizrahi moved into a brand-new one-bedroom apartment on the 36th floor of a residential unit in downtown Jersey City. Immediately after the storm, her living room was converted into a makeshift office where, beginning at 7:30 every morning, she met with colleagues as they worked out a plan to save their company.
“I used to wake up in the morning crying. My whole team was in my living room! It was a nightmare,” Mizrahi, 55, said.
Mizrahi is the C.E.O. of Anderson International Foods, a small kosher cheese company that supplies stores and restaurants around North America and in Australia. A Parisian with a lifelong love of cheese, it was a natural fit when she discovered that the company that turns out 20 varieties of artisan cheese was for sale.
In 2008 she moved the company from L.A. to New York and two years later the company settled into a beautiful, historic warehouse once owned by Ambriola, an importer of Italian cheeses.
On October 29, all 20,000 square feet of the warehouse flooded. Denied claims by multiple insurance companies and still waiting to hear from FEMA, the small company has rallied to save its warehouse, starting almost from scratch in order to rebuild and return to 100% production. The Forward caught up with Mizrahi to see how she’s doing three months after the storm.
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