Philadelphia’s French Toast Lady brews a beer, puts bacon on a stick and prepares to take over the world
Charisse McGill contradicts people who call her the lady of the French toast.
“No, I’m French toast Baby,She corrects them, laughing. “I’m sexy. Believe me.”
At 38, the hot entrepreneur who makes pieces of French toast for sale at pop-ups, farmers’ markets and festivals is making a name for herself in the Philadelphia area. Expect her to capture a national fan base soon.
“I had seen her on a morning TV show and was a bit captivated by her. Then I saw her on TV a year later, twice a day; after the third time, I said, ‘I want to work with her. She’s such a go-getter, ”says her new collaborative partner, Joe Modestine, president of Doylestown Brewing, north of Philly.
Modestine and French Toast Bae just released a spicy dark beer together, which they are careful to label as do not drink one dessert and you’re done. This makes McGill the first African-American woman known in Pennsylvania to have her own beer, French Toast Bites Ale.
The pair did enough to provide the Doylestown wholesaler with a one-month supply. It sold out in a week.
Now they’re on their second batch of seven barrels, which they’re tweaking by replacing the vanilla pods with fresh vanilla sprigs.
“I knew whatever she did she was going to kill him but I didn’t expect it that much,” Modestine says.
Maybe he should have. In the two years since the longtime artisanal food activist started making bites of French toast, she has stopped selling them to a temporary pod park in trendy Northern Liberties to claim your place at the annual Holiday Craft Market at Town Hall and the famous LOVE Park, then move on to the famous neighborhood Spruce Street Harbor Park and this year Cherry Street Pier. She packs her signature spice blend of cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla for retail sale; she’ll be venturing into chilled bacon on a stick to go this winter; and she’s developing frozen bacon for grocery stores.
None of this should neglect beer, the inventory of which was immediately picked up by the $ 3.9 billion food delivery service GoPuff, which serves 500 U.S. cities out of 200 distribution centers. On Thursday, the Philadelphia-based company said it had acquired Western liquor store chain BevMo for $ 350 million.
McGill first logged in to GoPuff when an employee came to their Spruce Street kiosk (fashioned into a truck container, like all the vendors there) and loved what she was doing. He liked what she said next to him even more.
“He perked up,” says McGill. “Are you making a beer?” I’m going to introduce Randy, the director of GoBooze. ‘”
“There was a lot of local buzz around what she was doing and we wanted to get involved. Then when we heard that Charisse was mixing his French toast bites with beer, we knew it would be a good choice as GoPuff is always looking for innovative products to add to our platform, ”said the GoPuff spokesperson Elizabeth Romaine.
To make the beer, the expenses and profits of which she shares 50/50 with Modestine, the MBA student literally jumped in with both feet. Not only did the newbie in brewing help design the flavor profile, label and marketing strategy, she also put herself at the heart of the brewing and canning process.
“They told me I had to wear boots. Well I only have designer boots. I’m not wearing my boots up there! she says. All in all, she bought some suitable shoes for the job and says she had so much fun and appreciated the utter lack of glamor and the amount of mess that the brewing process involves.
But it’s not like McGill isn’t used to getting dirty. Before venturing out on her own, she ran a large suburban farmers market for seven years. His then 12-year-old daughter – who had grown up helping vendors “dung” for change, as McGill puts it – begged to start a business. Long story short, Madison McGill figured out how to infuse farmers’ donations of unusable produce into lemonade and won $ 5,000 over 14 summer market days.
McGill says, “I scratch my head and get jealous thinking, ‘I’m on the wrong side of this tent.
A few months later, she borrowed Madison’s $ 5,000 to rent a booth at the Christmas Village, and her French toast bites were born.
“I gave him all his money back, then a little,” she says.
Although Madison is far too young to legally taste her mother’s beer, she has learned a lot from her business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit. At 14, she no longer makes naturally flavored lemonades but has moved into a room that her family has decorated like a salon to cut and style the hair of her friends. Yes, for the money.
As for his mother, McGill never once thought of getting into beer. She admired her hip-hop heroes’ successes with their beverage businesses, but never saw it as achievable for her.
But then, “Joe saw me on TV and liked my energy. It was obvious to me because beer was considered essential (thanks to COVID restrictions in Pennsylvania)!”
The media made a big deal out of McGill’s gender and race, but she and Modestine, who is white, agreed they didn’t want to “play the race card,” Modestine says.
McGill adds, “I want to normalize black women in beer without them shouting, ‘Hey, we’re made by blacks!’ “
That said, she is thrilled that her beer is sold in various neighborhoods and proudly notes that her former friends and colleagues from Temple University are heading to the urban campus to purchase her beer from a store there. This represents one of its potentially achieved goals: to bring pride to the black community, which is usually starting to sample craft beer.
McGill is excited to brew more 5.5% ABV beer which is structurally malty and carries a pleasant touch of sweetness and roundness on the palate. Modestine says they’ll sell the beer as long as there are buyers, and he’s already formulating recipes for variations that include bacon, strawberries, or whipped cream.
“I wasn’t shocked (by the beer exhaustion rate) because I’m still optimistic,” says McGill. “People are looking for comfort and pleasure and I have a fun product.”