Pizza man, occasional dishwasher, and CEO. Mike Bergemann’s life is caffeine, pizza, paperwork, repeat — not that he’s complaining
What does an average day look like?
The bakers are in at 5am, but I typically have an 8.30am start, checking in with everyone. I drink an espresso (to check if the machine is working) then a cold brew to get the proper ratio of caffeine to hours that I’m awake. We then get on with baking for the day, work through lunch service, afternoon is paperwork (accompanied by a slice – purely to check quality). These days, as we are in start-up phase, I’ll do dinner service and probably lock up. I like being around the market when everyone has gone. It’s peaceful – a contrast with the rest of my day.
Best thing about the job?
Besides free pizza? And coffee? When people come back and tell us they really like the food. Putting yourself out there with your own business is tough – the praise is the best part.
And the worst?
I don’t want to complain about anything … but … I guess I’d like to find more time for normal stuff and see my girlfriend when she’s awake.
Any famous faces in the restaurant?
The best one ever: Marisa Tomei (twice).
What did she have?
I can’t tell you – that’s confidential information – but she did like the Gino’s Italian Ice sticker on our fridge (she said: “It reminds me of junior high!”)
What other folks have you had in?
The construction guys are cool, any taxi driver who will take me home to Greenpoint is welcome … and we’ve got to know the staff from Robert’s Steakhouse (the Penthouse Club). It’s an interesting crowd.
Do you have another string to your bow? Wrestler? Life model? Cat whisperer …?
Gardening is my love and end goal. My dad owns a small landscaping company, so I worked outside with him. I had a great backyard in Carroll Gardens, but the landlord sold the place! I’ve now got a garden at my parents’ place in NJ and that’s going to be my space to grow my own stuff for consumption. There’s nothing better than eating the thing you grew.
This is your second place in Hell’s Kitchen – you opened Ivan’s Slurp Shop. Where else do you like locally?
First on the list is Rudy’s – I like to go in for, like, three minutes, order a beer and grab a hot dog. I’m a fan of SUNAC – I love the efficiency of that place. And we lived in Tehuitzingo during the construction: they had great camita sandwiches. I also love Tulcingo Del Valle for breakfast and enchiladas, and the Westway Diner can get my late-night business too.
What do you do on your nights off?
I don’t have any yet. But when I do, my favorite thing is to go on a boat, like the East River Ferry or Staten Island Ferry, and eat plenty of shellfish. I’m going to try out the North River Lobster Company or Fish Bar this year. Everything tastes better on a boat.
After the restaurant closes and the lights are turned off, how do you wind down?
By battling the subway or taxis, eating food (which is a mistake) …. then I pass out.
What’s the dream – the five-year plan?
I want to transition to a place that is involved in the whole cycle of food. The chef doesn’t exist without the farmer and I’d like this all to be more connected to that. It’s limited in this size of space, but I’m up for big plans. Eating real food is the solution to many of our problems.
600 11th Ave – W45th St
This story originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of W42ST magazine.