The ICE Alumni Behind Pink Pie
This married couple creates miniature sweet and savory pies in Miami.
Michael McGowan (Culinary/Management, ‘15) and Paloma Machado-McGowan (Culinary/Management, ‘14) were both drawn to the Institute of Culinary Education’s New York City location. Michael, from South Florida, wanted to work at the best restaurants in the world, and Paloma, from Brazil, liked the combination of classic techniques and international cuisines in small classes. They each walked away with dual diplomas and a spouse, plus the New York restaurant experiences they’d craved.
After graduation, the couple planned to open their first business outside of New York’s expensive and competitive industry. On a visit to Michael’s hometown, they discovered the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, Florida, and noted that no one was offering pie.
“Pie is the epitome of American dessert,” Michael says. “My birthday falls on Thanksgiving every so many years, so I have had many pies as my birthday cake. Every time I have a good pie, it brings back great memories. I have a special connection with it.”
While the McGowans both studied Culinary Arts and Restaurant & Culinary Management at ICE, they shared a passion for pie making.
“I love pies, and I think they are great vessels to showcase different techniques and flavor combinations, not just the more traditional American fruit pies,” Paloma says.
So in 2016, they debuted Pink Pie at the weekend farmers market, offering three-inch pies in seasonal flavors from coconut dulce de leche to guava cheese. Naturally, Key Lime became a favorite and staple on the menu, in addition to Oreo Nutella. And yes, there are gluten-free and vegan options.
After two years of success, including the top Yelp rating among pie shops in Miami, the couple opened a 900-square-foot, brick-and-mortar shop in January. The undeniably Instagrammable space is in Wynwood, what Eater calls “Miami’s arguably most hip neighborhood.”
Beyond inspiring headlines with “too cute to handle” and “adorable,” the concept has already landed on lists of best spring break food destinations, where to spend Valentine’s Day and celebrate National Pie Day, and was among the year’s most anticipated restaurant openings on Eater Miami.
Michael runs the kitchen, applying what he learned about cleanliness, organization and inventory management, and Paloma runs the business, saying, “I pretty much put into practice everything I learned in culinary management on a daily basis, from dealing with employees and hiring, to cost control and revenue management.”
While their ICE education laid a foundation for their first business, the McGowans have advice from their experience in the market for entrepreneurs just starting out.
“It is very fun but requires a lot of dedication and hard work,” Paloma says. “Make sure you understand your numbers. In order to be successful, it is not just about making good food, but also having great customer service while keeping your costs down and under control.”
Michael echoes her sentiment. “In this business, you have to commit 110 percent — 99 percent will not do it,” he warns. “This a great industry to be part of, and having someone enjoy the food you give them is one of the best feelings in the world. It is going to be hard, but it is not impossible.”
With experience at restaurants like Ai Fiori and Betony and years of product testing at the farmers market, this pair was up for the challenge — and Pink Pie’s success is a sweet reward.