How this woman’s pandemic passion could create a unique model for New York pizzerias

It takes Miriam Weiskind five days of prep and 60 seconds of cooking for the aroma of the dough – cooked to golden, bubbling perfection with sweet tomatoes and salty, hazelnut mozzarella cheese – to fill the air with its sound. Brooklyn apartment.

But soon – with the help of her thousands of local and online supporters – Weiskind told “Good Morning America” ​​that she hopes to bring her unique Sicilian and Neapolitan pop-up pies to the pizzeria, and flip the script on pizzerias and restaurants owned by women.

“My goal is to open a brick and mortar where I can continue to bake pies in honor of my mother’s memory and to continue to do good for my community,” she said about from her mother, Hyla, who inspired her to bake. for neighbors during the pandemic and later died of COVID-19 in August 2020. “To continue to inspire people to be good and to do good for others because we don’t know where we are going, but the best what we can do is be kind. “

The creative director turned pizza pastry chef spent nearly two years honing her craft, perfecting her cold two-day fermented dough, and helping feed those in need – an unwritten lesson from her mother, who was an assistant. social and volunteer palliative care.

“My mom has always been a great inspiration in life,” Weiskind said. “She used to drive bottles of honey for the Jewish New Year, just to make sure everyone had a sweet New Year.”

Beyond eating pizza at their family’s favorite store in Dayton, Ohio, Weiskind’s entry into the pizza world began in 2011 at the NYC Pizza Run. After completing four loops in a small Manhattan park and eating three slices of pizza along the way, she won tickets to Scott’s Pizza Tours, where she met Scott Wiener. He then hired Weiskind to lead some of his famous tours that trace the evolution of pizza covering everything from history to the science of pies.

“I fell in love with the connection I made with people by talking about pizza and having the opportunity to teach people how it’s made,” Weiskind said of his eight year career in the industry. business.

She tried her hand at making dough, learning different techniques for the best baking and a tested recipe for friends with a pop-up in her apartment to enjoy the homemade pizzas. In 2020, she tapped into her skills as a Creative Director and created an array of pizza pictures on New Years Day to set a new goal: making pizza.

“I went to a bunch of pizza bakers in town and was blown away by a lot of people. The only person who didn’t even hesitate was Paulie Gee,” she said of the man behind his eponymous pie. shop in Greenpoint, which offered him a paid apprenticeship. There, Weiskind learned how to properly use the hide with a roaring wood-fired oven. “It was love at first sight – I can’t describe the joy it brought me,” she said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic loomed and disrupted life as people knew it, jobs dried up and for a while her time in the kitchen did too. Weiskind kept his hands busy and practiced his pizza in the kitchen of his tiny apartment while launching a small local effort to help his community.

“Like all the other New Yorkers stuck inside, isolated, I started cooking, and it became a lot of pizza,” she said. “So my mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you give it to others to help them? You have too much, always give back to others.’ So I wrote a menu on a pizza box and put it on top of the letterboxes and [wrote], ‘Anyone who can’t afford a meal or anyone who needs a reason to smile, if you are a first responder order a free pizza from me.’ “

Four pies quickly tripled to 12 as neighbors began ordering and donating more money to pay for the pies to neighbors in need. Weiskind said that when the community heard about Instagram, “all of a sudden my inbox was flooded with DMs to place an order.”

“I went from eight to 20 pies a night. I was trading pizza with a butcher two blocks away. a month for a pizza. “

“My mom told me to help others, so the pizza rule was if someone lost their job, was a first responder, a low-income essential worker, or needed a reason to smile – the pizza was free for them, ”she explained.

In July 2020, Weiskind’s mom and dad were both diagnosed with COVID-19 and ‘by the time we realized what was going on it was pretty advanced and within 24 hours we got them said they had to get tested to confirm that was the case. COVID, my mom had to be rushed to hospital and put on a ventilator. “

Weiskind again worked in prep at Paulie Gee to deal with, but after five weeks she died from COVID.

“It was difficult. The night she passed away I still made 20 pizzas for people, because I know my mom would have said, ‘You have to make sure you bring the pizza to the people who depend on it. . ‘”

“In my box you always see the ‘For Mom’ stamp – I say every pizza I make is a heartbeat of my mom,” she said. “She knew I was going to do something, but I don’t think she ever imagined that I would have baked over 5,000 pizzas in this tiny apartment – and inspire others.”

Weiskind said she only knew of seven other female-run pizzerias in New York City, a tiny number in the diagram of the city’s hundreds of slice shops.

“I’m sure there are more, but not many,” added Wiener, the pizza expert, listing less than 10 he knows.

“There are so many women eating pizza that we don’t know. In New York, it’s a much smaller pool,” Weiskind said.

“One thing that’s unique about women and pizza is that we’re a community and it’s about uplifting one another, it’s about supporting each other; it’s about creating something that will resonate with your customer and bring them happiness. “

With the use of the Kickstarter fundraising platform, Weiskind raised $ 80,000 of his stretch goal of $ 500,000 after surpassing the initial goal of $ 50,000 in the first five days.

“What that means is that it’s an all-or-nothing fundraising platform,” she explained. “What I managed to do on Kickstarter is a huge anomaly for a restaurant to raise that amount of capital, so I’m glad I kind of broke that barrier and showed other potential restaurateurs as well. can fundraise. “

His goal of $ 500,000 would allow Weiskind to get the physical space needed, “but also invest in my contractor to build a space, buy my equipment, be able to pay my employees – legal fees, license permits, he there is a lot that involves. “

His hope is to avoid taking partners “so that the 20% of the equity that I would normally sell to an investor, I can take that equity – that is, the profits – and reinvest it in the salary. of my employees and then give them a bonus at the end of the year to encourage them to stay. “

“One of the systemic problems in the restaurant industry is the salary people receive – employees will have two or three jobs to make ends meet,” she explained. “What if instead of selling my company’s shares, [I] take those profits and reinvest them in my staff so that they feel like part of my family, that they want to invest in working with me and that they see that for the long term. “

Even though she had to bring in investors, Weiskind is committed to her vision of creating a “thriving business that will become a pillar for my community”.

“I would continue to take a percentage of my own profits and reinvest in employees because I know what I need to run my business. I know what I need to be able to pay my own bills and I know what I need to be happy, ”she said.