BY JEANETTE HURT
PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
Entrepreneurs and business partners Sari Schiff and George Gaspar were working on an international health care initiative when Schiff started telling Gaspar about these succulent, melt-in-your-mouth bacon sandwiches that were unlike any she had ever tasted -— and how she thought they could bring them to Milwaukee. Instead of laughing the idea off, Gaspar joined in her enthusiasm, and soon a new business was born: The Bacon Co. Since earlier this year, they’ve been hosting pop-up dinners and events, gaining a cult following in Milwaukee. Schiff, who is due to give birth to her fourth child any day now, and Gaspar sat down to talk about all things bacon.
Where did you get this idea from?
Schiff: In Toronto, I was in the St. Lawrence Market, and they have butchers there. It’s sort of like our public market, and they cut these bacon sandwiches. I was there with my husband, and I said, “Oh, this is really good, but I think I can do this better.” I was in a business meeting with George, and I said, “What do you think about this?”
Gaspar: I said, “Absolutely.” It was perfect timing. I was looking to do something in the food and beverage industry. She has a pretty extensive culinary background, and the two of us started tooling around in the kitchen in research and development mode, and that’s how we got where we are today.
Schiff: We tried two or three different cures, and we found one that works. It gives (the bacon) an amazing flavor and a great crust, and it holds its flavor when we cut it.
Gaspar: We looked at the whole process. We make all of our own mustard. We tried about 10 different types of bread and didn’t find what we were looking for, so we sat down with Brian Miller of Miller Baking Co.
Schiff: He delivered it. It’s sort of a cross between a really substantial brioche and a Hawaiian roll, but it doesn’t have that failure in taste and texture (that the other rolls did).
Tell us a bit about your culinary background.
Schiff: I went to chef school at The Art Institute (of) Fort Lauderdale after four years of college in Wisconsin. I cooked for different catering companies and restaurants. I don’t think of myself as a foodie; I consider myself a foodologist. I study what people eat and what foods become foods of note. I think the hottest meat out there is bacon, not pork, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
Why is your bacon so different?
Gaspar: We take slab bacon, about 12 to 14 pounds each, and we have a proprietary cure, and we cure it, slow roast it, (and) slice by hand so they’re thick pieces of bacon. It’s not like the bacon you think of at the brunch table — it’s like brisket. The fat just melts into the meat, so by the time we’re cutting it, it’s got a very soft texture, and it’s extremely flavorful.
Schiff: It’s been an interesting ride. We started trying things and doing surveys and getting people’s feedback. People thought we should have a spicy mustard so we added that, and then we started working with the distillery, and we added a whiskey mustard. We keep adding a few things, and that keeps it fun. It’s not the same thing every time you’re there.
How did your testing turn into a business?
Gaspar: Dave Jurena, who owns The Soup Market, is a very dear friend of ours, and he just said to us, “If you ever want to use my kitchen and do a pop-up tasting for friends and family, let me know.” That was very generous of him, and we went in on a Saturday morning and started playing around with things. Then we moved over to Great Lakes Distillery to do another pop-up. Guy Rehorst is absolutely amazing, and we started doing these pop-ups. It really started as a silly conversation that then turned into a hobby, and now it’s a full-blown company.
Schiff: It’s taken on a life of its own. We work really well together. George is an amazing administrator of getting things done, and I’m the ideas girl. Work has to be fun. And this bacon thing, we love what we’re doing. Bacon is the light of my life. It is the baby before the baby comes.
Schiff: Down the road, we might do a Tex-Mex kind of bacon or bacon hot dogs. We toy around with different ideas.
Gaspar: Right now we’re just going to continue with our pop-ups. We’re looking at the potential for a brick and mortar (location), and we’re looking at a couple of other options. We just keep on keeping on, feeding our customers’ desire for bacon as we move forward.
To find out when the next pop-up event is visit thebaconco.com.