By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald
Saturday, November 8, 2014 12:38:24 EST PM
You gotta eat at Anna Mae’s.
John Catucci says so.
The host of the award-winning Food Network Canada show You Gotta Eat Here was in Millbank this week with a television crew to film an episode entirely dedicated to the delectable desserts dished up at the popular Perth County bakery and restaurant.
Lights, cameras and sound equipment were installed in the bakery Tuesday for a segment on pies – specifically Dutch apple, pecan and pumpkin. And Wednesday, the scene shifted to the dining room to interview customers about just what makes them special.
“It was so much fun,” said Anna Mae’s assistant manager Amanda Herrfort of the two-day shoot. “Very stress free. Very easy. And the whole crew was great.”
The invitation to appear on You Gotta Eat Here came through back in March, and Herrfort said she didn’t hesitate for a second.
“I was super excited,” she said. “It was a real honour just to be considered for the show, and to actually make it on was even better.”
While she and bakery manager Sheila Bauman helped out behind the scenes this week, manager Janice Kropf walked Catucci through some of the finer points of piemaking – peeling the apples and making the crumb topping for the Dutch apple, peeling, steaming and smashing the pumpkins for the pumpkin pie, and, of course, making the dough.
Catucci, known for his on-air antics, even donned a frilly white apron for his bakery work.
That sense of humour helped ease any jitters that customers might have had about appearing on camera Wednesday, when filming moved to the dining room.
“Everyone was quite excited,” said Herrfort. “Some were a little nervous at first, but they got over that pretty quickly.”
While locals likely don’t need to be convinced that they “gotta eat” at Anna Mae’s, Herrfort said the show will hopefully whet the appetites of diners from further away for its unique Mennonite cooking and baking.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” she said. “And we’re just honoured that they found us all the way out here in little Millbank.”
In fact, You Gotta Eat here director Jim Morrison, who won a Canadian Screen Award in March for his work on the show, has eaten at Anna Mae’s several times before, noted Herrfort.
Wednesday, he tweeted a photo of one of the restaurant’s most popular items – the broasted chicken.
“This is one of my favourite dishes in Canada,” he wrote.
The You Gotta Eat Here episode featuring Anna Mae’s will be shown on the Food Network Canada sometime in the spring.
It will be the second area eatery to be included on the show’s list of Canada’s best comfort food spots.
In the fall of 2011, Catucci and crew were in downtown Stratford to film a segment on Boomers Gourmet Fries.
We were chosen as one of 52 Things to do in Waterloo Region. Please check out the video below!
Popular eatery a must-stop for homemade Mennonite cooking, baked goods
by: Dan McNee
MILLBANK — There’s something about sitting down for dinner with family and friends at Anna Mae’s Bakery and Restaurant that is reminiscent of heading downstairs for a delicious, homemade Sunday meal when you were young. It’s that sense of comfort and familiarity — along with the exceptional food, of course — that keeps hungry patrons coming back for more.
“It’s homemade and it’s reasonably priced,” said Anna Mae’s assistant manager Amanda Herrfort. “There’s a homey atmosphere; it just makes everybody feel comfortable like they’re at home.”
The popular Millbank restaurant has grown exponentially since its early days of operating out of Anna Mae Wagler’s kitchen in 1978. The local Mennonite entrepreneur started out baking and selling pies from her home until moving the business to its current Line 72 location, eventually expanding it through the rest of her family’s home to evolve it into the present-day restaurant that seats 200, as well as the storefront, gift shop and bakery. Wagler sold the business to local residents Marlene and the late Mel Herrfort in 2001, whose family continues to uphold the high standard that was first laid out by Anna Mae so many years ago.
Offering extensive breakfast, lunch and supper menus featuring a rotating weekly meat schedule that includes favourites such as full broasted chicken and turkey dinners, it’s a rare sight to see Anna Mae’s parking lot not filled to capacity.
“It’s a small town, so you get to know a lot of people,” said Amanda Herrfort. “We have a lot of regulars too, they’re not necessarily from the area but they’ll make the drive a couple times a month. We have a lot of familiar faces, so you get to build connections with people.”
Anna Mae’s pies have become the stuff of legend in midwestern Ontario and beyond. Offering approximately 17 different flavours, some folks make the drive just to get the opportunity to dig into their treat of choice; whether that be coconut cream, pumpkin, blueberry, lemon or the ever-popular Dutch apple. A full array of doughnuts, cheesecakes, sweet buns, tarts and muffins are also readily available from the bakery.
The restaurant’s popularity has not gone unnoticed by the Food Network’s popular show, You Gotta Eat Here!, after being featured on the program in 2015. But Anna Mae’s doesn’t need a television show to tell you how good the dining experience is — the terrific food and outstanding service speaks for itself.
“If you want to come, everybody is very friendly and very personable,” said Herrfort of her staff, a small army of full- and part-time workers numbering about 80 personnel. “I’m very proud of how everyone works together, and treats the guests how they’d like to be treated. Come join us.”
Anna Mae’s Bakery and Restaurant is located at 4060 Line 72 in Millbank. Hours are Mondays to Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sundays and holidays. The business is completely accessible, and can be reached at 519-595-4407 or online at annamaes.ca.
On May 8th, 2015 we were featured on the Food Network’s show YOU GOTTA EAT HERE! In case you missed it, please check out the link below!
We were featured on Days Out Ontario, and recognized as having Ontario’s BEST PIE!!
Owner of iconic Millbank eatery dies at age 65
By BRIAN SHYPULA
Millbank is in mourning after losing one of its pillars over the weekend with the sudden death of businessman Melvin Herrfort.
The president of the Millbank Business Association was owner of Anna Mae’s Bakery and Restaurant, a favourite stop of visitors and locals alike.
He and wife Marlene bought the landmark Perth County restaurant from founder Anna Mae Wagler in 2001 and kept things mostly the same, especially the menu of homestyle Mennonite comfort foods.
He could be found there almost every day, usually at the so-called “round table” in the company of friends over coffee.
“He just enjoyed the camaraderie of all of that, he looked forward to that every day. Even in the last couple of months that he’s been sick, he still made it down there pretty much every day to make sure that he was connecting with those guys,” daughter Alecia Henderson said Monday.
Last year when Millbank celebrated its 160th anniversary, the big round table and regulars were atop Anna Mae’s float in the parade.
Longtime waitress/supervisor Krystal Richards said the mood at the restaurant yesterday was sombre with many staff and customers still in disbelief.
“He was a very caring person,” she said.
Mr. Herrfort had a heart attack at church Sunday and died later at Stratford General Hospital. He was 65.
He was being remembered for his spirituality and his entrepreneurial spirit.
“I would say that Mel was the pillar of the community really,” said Cathy Bieman, general manager of the Perth County Visitors Association and a member of Millbank Business Association.
She said Mr. Herrfort was a generous man who gave both his time and money to help the community.
“He was always there, always.”
When Millbank hosted a tent crusade put on by Gospel Express Ministries and local churches last summer, Mr. Herrfort donated the land and was one of the driving forces behind the scenes.
Ray Gerber, owner of Get Printing Canada Inc., said his business colleague was always humble.
“That was just his personality in business and everything. He wasn’t the showman,” he said.
Glenn Zehr, former pastor of Riverdale Mennonite Church, said Mr. Herrfort’s accomplishments as an entrepreneur were impressive.
“He did a lot for the village,” he said, like stepping up after Parmalat closed Millbank Cheese and Cold Storage, one of the longest running businesses in the community.
“Mel was instrumental in purchasing the building back from Parmalat,” Mr. Zehr said.
Mr. Herrfort also developed five seniors housing units in Millbank with plans to add five more this spring. Ms. Henderson said the family will see the project through.
While her father was a “bit of a workaholic,” he also enjoyed his cottage and boat at Chesley Lake.
“He liked speed,” she added.
The native of Mornington Township lived his entire life at RR 1 Newton. He farmed before opening Herrfort Equipment Co. in the mid-’70s. Later, he would switch the farm machinery business to a trucking company.
Herrfort Equipment was located next door to Anna Mae’s and Mr. Herrfort and his wife would eat at the restaurant almost every day for a decade before finally buying the eatery. The couple quietly approached Mrs. Wagler after they learned she was interested in selling Anna Mae’s.
“We wanted to keep the ownership local,” Mr. Herrfort said in an interview with The Beacon Herald at the time. “We have to keep the broasted chicken here,” he added of the restaurant’s signature dish.
With 65 staff, Anna Mae’s is still one of the largest employers in the Millbank area. The Herrforts made a few changes in the beginning, such as opening Mondays and building a small addition to expand seating, but the most dramatic move came last year with the addition of a wind turbine. Towering over Millbank, it generates enough electricity to power the restaurant with extra to spare.
Mr. Herrfort is survived his his wife and four daughters and their families, including eight grandchildren.
Funeral home visitation will be held today at the Mark Jutzi Funeral Home, 7 Spencer St., Milverton, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and Wednesday 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The funeral service will take place Thursday at 2 p.m. at Riverdale Mennonite Church.
**Marlene still owns Anna Mae’s and her daughter Amanda helps Manage the business. They plan to keep it in the family for a long time to come.