Pete Brown of Washingtonville, originally from Brooklyn, retired from the NYPD a few years back. But he’s working more or less full-time now as Grandpa Moustache. That’s his cheesecake business. And believe it or not, this former police patrolman, detective and sergeant puts his police skills to good work in the professional kitchen.
But first, let’s address the name. “My grandkids, to differentiate me from their other grandpa, called me Grandpa Moustache.” He jokingly describes the ‘stache he sports as “department-issued.”
It’s his look and his logo, too. The business name was recently trademarked and he will branch out into online retail soon. Right now, he operates mainly as a wholesale business. He provides his cheesecakes to the three Bobby Van’s Steakhouse locations in New York City, to Betty’s Country Kitchen in Washingtonville, Scalia & Co. Craft Kitchen and Best of Little Italy, both in Monroe, a shop in Jersey City and to folks who pre-order. Most recently he made a Key Lime wedding cheesecake and mini versions of the same for a woman from Miami marrying a man from Brooklyn.
Brown and his wife, June, are parents of five sons. He was not a baker while the kids were growing up. Truth be told, he’s never even tasted a bite of cheesecake, Brown insists. “I’m not a big fan of cream cheese.”
But he knows how much people love New York-style cheesecake and that’s what he bakes.
He baked his first cheesecake after visiting a friend who had made a cheesecake that impressed June. That led Brown to bake one for June. And, the rest, well, it was the start of a business. One that kept growing.
“After a while, it started to get too big for me to do by myself so I convinced my wife to retire from nursing and come help me to grow the business,” Brown says.
And now, back to how Brown puts those police skills to work in his baking business. That involves June. “She is the tester,” he says. And the taster. “I make them and she tests them. And since I was a detective, I kind of grill her.” To get his basic, and now award-winning recipe, he drilled down to the specifics of the recipe, quizzing June on details of taste, tinkering and reworking his recipe until he found the one that earned this response: "That’s delicious. Don’t change anything.”
Check out Grandpa Moustache and his cheesecakes on Instagram www.instagram.com/gmcheesecakes and Facebook at www.facebook.com/gmcheesecakes The website, he says, is in the works.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life so far?
Don’t regret decisions you’ve made in life. If they don’t turn out the way you hoped, try to learn from them and move on. I know a lot of times it’s easier said than done.
What’s your fondest memory?
Watching my five sons grow up, seeing how much fun they have when they’re together. They even started doing a Brothers Day, once a year they would all get together and go to a baseball game and then go out for dinner.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enjoy life. Do what makes you happy. Even as far as a career goes, you have to be happy doing what you do. It's not always about how much money you make. Whatever your career choice is you’ll be doing it for a long time so you have to be happy with it.
Tell us a risk you took that was worth taking.
Starting a cheesecake business. After retiring from the NYPD, I worked with a bomb dog for a private security company in NYC. When the dog was retiring, my family encouraged me to start a cheesecake business.
What are you looking forward to?
Retiring with my wife to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Our friends are all getting ready to retire and move south. Some to North Carolina, some to South Carolina and some to Delaware. We have a condo in North Myrtle Beach and enjoy being there, so the plan is to move there.
What have you done or thought recently that surprised you?
Winning the NJ State Fair cheesecake contest three years in a row surprised me. In 2016, a guy I worked with showed me an article about the contest. My wife and I decided to enter it in 2017. That year, we won a first-place and two second-place ribbons. My cheesecakes have won a total of 13 ribbons for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Cheesecake contests. That surprised me.
What gives you strength?
My family and friends.
What don’t you waste time on?
I don’t waste time on negative people. Some people are just miserable and nothing you say to them cheers them up. I’ll try to make them see the good things in life, but if they’re not willing to try to see them, I don’t have time for that.
Do you have a motto to live by?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life’s too short.
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