Colors — Detroit Fosters Personal Growth

A Broad Spectrum: At Colors – Detroit, the emphasis is on local ingredients, and the development of area employees


Phil Jones relishes the fact that every day, on his way to work, he drives by the place that grows the salad greens that will be on the lunch menu at Colors – Detroit. The restaurant and training center in the basement of downtown’s historic Beaux-Arts building uses as many local ingredients as possible as part of its mission.

Colors, which opened in January, is a project of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, and Jones is the chef and general manager — an ideal assignment for the longtime community activist.

He likes to reel off the names and products of local businesses that supply his raw materials, many within Detroit city limits, like the greens grower Brother Nature Produce in Corktown. He mentions Avalon International Breads, Traffic Jam cheeses, sausages from Corridor Sausage Co. — even honey. Other Michigan producers include Melo Farms in Yale and Hampshire Farms in Kingston. “Plus, there’s a group of 12 urban farmers that will be supplying us,” Jones says.

As admirable as the local focus is, there’s much more to Colors. Its mission is to teach its employees how to be better at what they do and to learn, in addition to skills, how important empathy is in interaction with the public. Working at Colors, they’re expected not only to become better workers, but also more empathetic human beings.

Concrete planning for Colors – Detroit began last June — an effort supported by many organizations and community groups, including Greening of Detroit, Michigan Green Safe Products, Earthworks, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Arts League of Michigan, along with such supportive business as Slows Bar BQ. A spinoff of the first such effort — New York’s Colors, which was opened in 2006 by Windows on the World workers who were displaced by the 9/11 tragedy — its space had been empty for a couple of years, and required significant refurbishing. Many people remember the place, now the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, as the Harmonie Club, and the sturdy structure retains much of its vintage charm.

What Jones calls “the first wave of employees” (cooks, waiters, and support staff) came on board in September. All 10 were chosen for their positive attitude. Some came via Michigan Works! Association, others responded to email blasts and Craigslist postings, and some, Jones says, just walked in off the street when they saw the activity in the basement space.

“We hire for attitude and train for skill,” says Jones, who says he was seeking a variety of “experience and experiences” brought by each prospective employee.

Jones believes in proceeding slowly and carefully. Colors is open only for lunch at this point, with longer hours to be added later. Colors does host some private events in the evening and offers catering services; dinner won’t be added on a regular basis until the liquor license, now pending, is in place.

The menu is relatively small but interesting, with international touches, such as Salvadoran empanadas, Greek meatballs, shrimp toast, and fried wontons filled with sweet potatoes — all on the appetizer list. A list of sandwiches and sides and a couple of changing entrees fill out the offerings and are typified by achiote-rubbed roasted free-range chicken, all well prepared under Jones’ direction.

At this point, there are just the New York and Detroit Colors, but the idea is expected to take root in nine more cities across the country.

If you enjoy the monthly content in Hour Detroit, "Like" us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter for more frequent updates.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

A Taste of Paris

Cannelle Patisserie chef Matt Knio’s baked goods are turning up in restaurants and markets across metro Detroit

The Big Dipper

Garden Fresh Gourmet is a shining star in the metro Detroit Food scene

A Zen Monk on Her Vegetarian Diet

Myungju Hillary talks spirituality, a plant-based diet, and more

These Businesses Are Planting Purpose in Metro Detroit — Through Food

Hour Detroit’s food issue explores sustainable restaurants, organizations, and more

3 Eateries that Focus on People, Profit, and the Planet

These triple bottom line businesses are part of Detroit’s FoodLab organization
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. An Animated Life
    As Rob Paulsen prepares to publish his memoir, the Hollywood veteran and voice behind some of the...
  2. An Hour With ... Teddy Dorsette III
    President, Detroit Black Deaf Advocates
  3. State of the Arts
  4. Gold Standard
    Tucked into an industrial strip in Ann Arbor, a new restaurant offers French fare
  5. A New Noodle Shop on the Block
    Midtown Detroit welcomes Urban Ramen
  6. Drink Beer, Do Good
    Local breweries and pubs jump on the charity bandwagon
  7. Business Class
    Trim suits, creative layers, and crisp white shirts - Fall's wardrobe essentials are fitting for...
  8. Recipe: Roast Boneless Pork Loin With Tart Cherry Chutney
    Executive chef at Ford’s Garage, Darin Thompson’s boneless pork loin marvel
  9. In Tune
    Influenced by its storied past, Willis Show Bar sets the tone for a nostalgic sound
  10. 13th Annual Best of Detroit Party
    On June 29, Hour Detroit brought the Best of Detroit issue to life at the 13th annual Best of...