Meet Aleric Constantin, current grill cook at Michael's Genuine and the cycling chef. Aleric attended Le Cordon Bleu, and upon his graduation worked in the kitchen of Eating House for a six-month period before moving on to Michael's Genuine.
His time with Giorgio Rapicavoli and presently Michael Schwartz is what's shaped his food philosophies: he wants to use only the best, healthiest, and most sustainable products. He's also very much into molecular gastronomy and growing his own produce, something he used to do when he lived in the Pinecrest area. Anything from Swiss chard to carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, peppers and even edible flowers were all part of Aleric, or AJ's, homegrown grocery list.
He would pack his chef whites daily and ride his bike down to the Design District, sometimes arriving soaking wet to work his station, not because of sweat, but because a storm caught him halfway. "Water makes everything grow," says AJ.
Wanting to do something on his own, as any cook dreams, AJ combined his two biggest passions, bikes and bites, to create his company Sear'N Gears, which he's launching within the next couple of months.
Working with a company called Metrofiets that specializes in custom-made cargo bikes, turning the classic 1930s and '40s bicycle into whatever their client wants, AJ will create his moving kitchen. Based out of the Pacific Northwest in Oregon, Metrofiets is particularly known for collaboration with owner and brewmaster of Hopworks Urban Brewery, Christian Ettinger, who loves bikes as much as beer. This partnership made portable organic beer possible in North Portland. AJ wishes to do the same thing here, only he's no a brewmaster.
"The thought initially came from New York gyro carts, and Thailand noodle carts," AJ tells Short Order. His original game plan was noodles, as he has a passion for laying out the dough and making them himself, but that was difficult. Having to rethink his strategy, AJ has decided he's going to start with completely sustainable and healthy ice cream, sorbet, gelato, and custards, targeting the cycling community and moving around to the many cycling events that happen in the Downtown, Midtown, and South Miami area.
He plans on using the kitchen space at The Corner to prep and make the whatever he chooses to offer for the day, and he will store his bike at The Collective right next door.
"Everything will be made fresh and ingredients will come from the markets of Little Haiti and places like Love & Vegetables. Fruits will be at their ripest so that their flavor profiles in the gelato really stand out," he tells us.
So far, flavor concepts in the works include a spicy Nutella with candied bacon and smoked maple and butter scotch foie with smoked pop rocks and candied onion syrup gelato. Because his whole belief is that food can change your mood whether it be healthy or fattening, AJ seeks to provide the biking community, which he says is made up of healthy and unhealthy, with a fatty item akin to ice cream, but make it healthy through his use and choice in the best ingredients, sourcing all-natural eggs and hormone-free dairy. Because of this, he says, people will be susceptible to pay food truck prices for his concoctions that will range from $5 to $8.
What about the Miami heat? AJ is sure that his bike will be built to handle the heat, and he'll be using dry ice to help him out.
" Ice cream men originally started off with a cart, up-scaling to the truck. This is going back to the roots, but it won't just be ice cream."
In the plans are beer pairings with local places where he'll post up, creating a collaborative float and finding a loophole to the hot food item, partnering his sweet-meets-salty ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and custards with perhaps a crepe, waffle, cookie, or pancake. He's even thought of doing crazy artisinal sausages and charcuterie.
"Anything is possible."
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So is this safe? To most people it might not be, but to the cycling chef who hasn't used a car in about two years and has been hit by the atypical (not!) awful Miami driver and even cabs, it seems like cake. It may also help that he's been training by carrying heavy weight to prepare for his food+bike that will weight about 500 pounds once completed and packed for service. Now that's impressive.
All we can do now is wait for the bike to be finalized, and for AJ to make his first unveiling where he says he'll be giving samples and not charging. "It will be at a cycling event, maybe Critical Mass and an amuse bouche of what's to come."
Follow Carla at @ohcarlucha