Look for French Toast Bites, French Toast Milkshakes and Bacon on a Stick This Summer
French Toast Bites by Lokal Artisan Foods will bring the sugar and spice and everything nice to Spruce Street Harbor Park by Univest for the summer of 2020. Chef, entrepreneur and owner Charisse McGill will become the first-ever Black female operator to be at Spruce Street Harbor when she opens this coming weekend. On the menu, look for her signature French Toast Bites with unlimited toppings, vegan French Toast Bites, new French Toast Milkshakes, bacon on a stick and other summer-time treats. French Toast Bites will occupy the former pod of HipCityVeg across from the floating Barge in the heart of the boardwalk.
For McGill, the road to Spruce Street Harbor park has been a long and exciting one – with ups and downs especially during the global crisis. McGill’s story is one of inspiration and perseverance as she has carefully expanded her business and adapted her model to short and long-term pop-ups, restaurant collaborations, and event/festival catering and vending.
With recent news of the city of Philadelphia cancelling events and festivals through February 2021, McGill’s news of being at Spruce Street Harbor Park couldn’t at a better time as dozens of events in the works have now been crossed off her books. As she has done in the past, she is looking ahead to better days, moving forward and working hard to come out on top on the other side – all with a positive can-do attitude and a smile, or smize if you will.
McGill, 38, is a Temple University alum, who attended the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. She is one class away from graduating from St. Joseph’s Haub School of Business, with an MBA in Food Marketing. She is the former Director of Special Events at Valley Forge Military Academy. She also is known for being an expert in open-air economics and organized the highly successful Lansdale Farmers’ Market. In 2018, her daughter Madison (now 14 years old) sold lemonade and became her Mom’s biggest fan and investor by helping her launch her new business French Toast Bites at her very first large-scale even, which was Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market at Dilworth Park. After launching, McGill became one of the most recognized and sought after vendors in the market. With the funds raised there, she invested back into her business and exploded in 2019 with the debut of her retail version of her priority blend of French Toast Spice – “The Only French Toast Seasoning You Will Need.”
While she was securing shelf placement for the spice, she continued to expand throughout 2019 with more events and festivals, her debut at the Bronx Night Market, the launch of a summer-long pop-up at Piazza Pod Park, the launch of a pilot program with Shop Rite, her debut at Made in America, and a record-breaking return to Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market.
For 2020, McGill had big plans that included more and larger festivals and events, more short-and long term pop-ups, and exploration of a brick and mortar space. Then COVID19 hit and those plans fell apart like they did for many in the hospitality business. These plans really came to a devastating end when the Mayor announced this very week that events would be cancelled until February of 2021. That is an additional seven months of income and opportunity – and the joy of cooking – lost for McGill.
During the global crisis, McGill helped champion and became the first paid vendor on the Black-owned and operated Black and Mobile delivery service. She partnered with Better Box to share kitchen and cooking facilities to host pop-up sales via delivery and pick-up. She went on to be one of 60 people to win a grant from Black People Eats, she raised 100% of her goal through a community Kiva loan, and was awarded a Magic Johnson forgivable loans to minority owned businesses through Johnson’s EquiTrust Life Insurance Company. She also was awarded a grant from the PA 30 Day Fund.
While this week could have been devastating for McGill with all the events and festivals being erased for seven months from her books, McGill did as she always does and picked up, moved forward, put in the hard work and remained positive. Now, this weekend, she will debut and make history at Spruce Street Harbor Park – and as she figures out her next moves for fall and 2021, she has her eyes set on those stunning waterfront views and she can’t wait to socially distance and smize at the families and patrons this summer as she tops their French Toast Bites with fresh seasonal berries, whipped cream and caramel drizzle.