After living the jet-set life of a successful television chef and author, Harry Schwartz settled in Sea Cliff three years ago. While he has held many titles in the food world over the past few decades, Schwartz, 63, has added yet another notch to his résumé with the opening of the Garden of Bacon at 214 F Glen Cove Ave. in Glen Cove last week.
Schwartz said his business produces dozens of different flavors of bacon and other bacon-infused food items, such as macaroni and cheese, hot wings and Brussels sprouts. He said plant-based bacon will be also be available, as well as a line of bacon dog treats. Everything is cooked to order, he said, and can be picked up through contactless take out or by delivery.
The business was originally supposed to be located in Sea Cliff, though Schwartz said he was advised by the county Department of Health to relocate to Glen Cove due to Sea Cliff’s reliance on septic tanks instead of sewers.
His interest in food started from a young age growing up in Iowa, Schwartz said. He learned to cook from his mother, Alysann, who did a great deal of cooking for her family and for parties. When he went to Iowa’s Grinnell College, he said he had a difficult time making friends, which spurred him to start cooking for his classmates. He said this yielded great results and showed him that food is a great tool for socialization.
After graduating from Grinnell in 1979, Schwartz started his graduate studies at Harvard Business School, although he non-matriculated a year later and returned back to the Midwest to open a scrap metal business in Oklahoma. However, he decided to venture back into the food world by opening the Back Bay Gourmet bistro in 1987, and his career in food took off from there.
Schwartz sold his scrap metal business in 1991, and after selling the bistro and writing the first of several cookbooks, he received an offer from PBS to run a television show called “Chef Harry’s Friends.” He said he jumped at the opportunity and moved to Malibu, Calif., where he lived and worked on the show until 2001. During those years, he said he also created recipes and acted as a spokesman for major brands like Starbucks, Guinness, Bacardi Rum and StarKist Tuna.
Following the conclusion of “Chef Harry’s Friends,” Schwartz said he and his family moved to Maine so his daughter, Alexa, could go to school in a more welcoming environment than was present in Malibu. Around this time, he started working in the cooking merchandise business, which led him to commute to Nashville to be featured on the Shopping Network.
However, Schwartz said he had a life-altering experience when he had a heart attack in 2007, after which he was told he was not going to live. He said his survival turned him into a changed person.
“When you die and come back to life and you’re in pain for years and years and you don’t think it’s going to stop, you change and I’m such a better man,” Schwartz said.
This near-death experience solidified the importance of volunteer work, Schwartz said, an idea which he has held strongly since he arrived in Sea Cliff four years ago. Almost immediately after moving to the village, he met with Mayor Edward Lieberman, who invited him to joined the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club.
“He became an instant celebrity in Sea Cliff because of his epicurean supremacy,” Lieberman said. “He’s a well-known chef, he’s written books, he’s appeared on celebrity chef TV shows, although you would never know it because he’s such a humble individual and he was a natural fit when I told him about the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club.”
Schwartz has worked with the Lions Club on several occasions, with one of his most recent projects being a chowder drive-by in October. Residents drove what was to be the original Garden of Bacon location at 347 Glen Cove Ave. in Sea Cliff to buy chowder and other foods made by Schwartz himself. All of the proceeds went to charity.
Peggie Como, director of the Sea Cliff Mutual Concerns Committee, a local nonprofit which benefits the village’s needy and senior populations, said Schwartz has also served as the committee’s chef for many of its events. She said he started cooking for their senior luncheon twice a week roughly two years ago, and he also cooked for its annual Holiday House Tour.
Como said the seniors loved Schwartz, as he goes out of his way to socialize with them while still serving them world-class food.
“It makes life easy when you have somebody who’s so positive,” Como said. “Anything you asked of him, he would do, and the seniors just adored him.”
Deborah Orgel-Gordon, founder of the North Shore Biz Network, said she is excited to see such a different approach to food come to the North Shore. It will be unlike anything else the area has to offer, she said, which will benefit everybody in the area.
“I wish them much luck and success,” Orgel-Gordon said. “I think they’re opening at a good time because, in the next few months, things are going to pick up and people are going to want to go out again and go to these local businesses and shop more.”
Though the coronavirus pandemic has caused businesses across the country to suffer economically, Schwartz said he believes the Garden of Bacon is exactly what the community needs right now. He has also already received a positive response from the Shopping Network, he said, where his food will likely be featured.
“I just think it’s the perfect time,” he said. “People need to reward themselves right now and everything we’re making right now is a treat for your palate. I think it’s more important now than ever.”