BAO actually stands for Bad Ass Organics, BAO Fresh Kombucha’s parent company. Their orders now exceed their production capability and Chef Mike and his business partner, also Mike, are in the process finalizing a new production facility and next week, they will start using new fermentation vessel that are five-times the size of their old tanks. Chef Mike said, “The feedback has been great. Kombucha is definitely an unusual product. The people that are familiar with it really like it. And we have also made many new friends along the way.” Among the three available flavors, berry is the most popular among new kombucha drinkers, while veterans stick to original.
Before launching BAO, Chef Mike worked in the kitchens at Osteria del Circo and Le Cirque before coming to ICE. When asked how launching BAO compared to working in the kitchen, Chef Mike said, “It is exactly the same in that you have to make something from scratch, create the recipe, follow strict sanitation rules and serve the public. It is completely different in the way that you get it to the consumer.”
The business model at BAO focuses on the community and outreach. Chef Mike said, “From the beginning my partner Mike and I wanted to have a business that was responsible: environmentally, socially and also produced product that was healthy for people.” They modeled their business on Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, the celebrated socially responsible bakery that provides brownies to Ben & Jerry’s. Soon, they will be making their first donation to the Greyston Foundation.
In fact, BAO Fresh Kombucha has been selected as the only functional beverage invited to the New York City Wine & Food Festival in support of the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength. This invitation only event for New York’s most innovative food companies is expecting over 5,000 attendees from October 7 to 10. (ICE is a partner for the four-day festival and our chefs and students will be helping out at the events.)
For those looking to sample some of Chef Mike’s hard work, he said, “There are so many places to purchase BAO in New York City, that I don’t even know them all. The Park Slope Co-op, Gourmet Garage, Fairway and Amish Market are just a few.”