Chefs' Recipes for Success




Every chef will tell you that it’s not only what he or she cooks, but how it’s cooked that makes all the difference. They know that the reason we eat out isn’t only to be social, but to experience food that just can’t be made at home. That’s why many chefs look to methods and ingredients that are difficult to replicate at home. Whether it’s a grill that heats at a higher temperature than what’s available at home, or a type of salt that isn’t easy to fi nd on a local grocery shelf, chefs have a way of making you wonder, “Why can’t I make it like that at home?”

In this section, Hour Detroit introduces you to chefs who let you know the secret to many of the techniques that make their kitchens so special. Some even share tips you can use at home.

While these tips and techniques are used every day at the restaurants and fine establishments listed here, it’s no secret that your results may vary at home. After all, chefs are willing to share what they know about cooking, but their true skill lies in the ability to make you want to come back to their restaurant for more.

Q: What’s the difference between various kinds of salts?

A: The most commonly used salt is plain old table salt, which is highly ground and refined to remove impurities and trace minerals. The problem with heavily ground salt is that it can clump together. For this reason, various anti-caking agents are added.

Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. Depending on where it’s harvested and how it was processed, it usually contains trace minerals like potassium, iron, and zinc. The darker the sea salt, the higher its concentration of trace nutrients. Sea salt is often less ground than regular refined salt, so if you sprinkle it on top of your food after it’s been cooked, it may have a different feel in the mouth and cause a more potent “flavor burst” than refined salt. The trace minerals and impurities found in sea salt can also affect the taste, but this varies greatly between different brands.

The main difference between regular salt and kosher salt is the structure of the flakes. We fi nd that kosher salt, due to its large fl ake size, is easier to spread over food. Kosher salt will have a different texture and fl avor burst, but if you allow the salt to dissolve in the food, there really isn’t any difference compared to regular table salt.

Bistro 82
Derik Watson, Executive Chef
402 S. Lafayette
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Q: What’s the best way to prepare steaks on the grill?

A: Preparing steaks on the grill can be intimidating. Here are my tips for successful summer grilling. First, I always look for USDA Prime beef, because it has such rich marbling — and, as we all know, marbling means fat and fat means flavor. I promise, you won’t regret taking the time to find the right cut of steak. Brushing your steaks with clarified butter adds great flavor and juiciness, and will help prevent the steaks from sticking to the grill. After the butter, liberally season your steaks with kosher salt and pepper on both sides. Make sure your grill is seriously hot. High heat will really sear the outside of your steaks, leaving you with that fantastic char on the outside along with a nice, juicy interior.

Don’t overcook! Press down on the steaks with your finger. A little bit of “bounce” means they’re medium rare, which is when you want to pull the steaks off the grill. Remember, they’re going to continue cooking after you take them off the heat, so be diligent about this step. Be patient. Allow your steaks to rest for 10 minutes before diving in. This gives the meat time to relax so the juices can redistribute. Trust me, you’ll be rewarded for your patience.

Iridescence, MotorCity Casino Hotel
Daniel Rutkowski, Chef de Cuisine
2901 Grand River Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201

Q: How do you use a summer garden?

A: At Toasted Oak Grill & Market, we have enough space to have a garden that we use in many of our dishes. Growing our own food means we know no chemicals and pesticides have been used. We find the best use of our space is to grow items that reproduce quickly — like kale, Swiss chard, arugula, radishes, herbs, and tomatoes.

As important as it is for a chef to manipulate flavors or ingredients, nothing compares to picking something from your own garden and preparing it as simply as possible to showcase the freshness of that ingredient.

Toasted Oak Grill & Market
Brian Kanak, Executive Chef
27790 Novi Rd.
Novi, MI 48377

Q: How do I reduce the acid when cooking a tomato-based sauce, and eliminate adding sugar to a sauce?

A: The natural acids of a tomato often compromise a fresh tomato sauce. Some recipes call for sugar to cover the acidity, but there are natural ways to avoid adding sugar to reduce the acid.

When sautéeing the onions and garlic as you prepare to make the sauce, include a chopped stalk of celery and shredded carrots, and cook until they liquefy. This will bring out the natural sweetness of the tomato and reduce the acid, all without adding any extra sugar.

Antonio’s Cucina Italiana
Antonio Rugiero, President & CEO
Dearborn Heights, Farmington Hills, Canton, Roman Village, Dearborn


Q: How can I impress my friends and family at our next picnic?

A. How about if you elevate everyone’s favorite picnic side dish — corn on the cob! Here’s a recipe for parmesan- pepper corn on the cob your guests are sure to enjoy.

1. Mix 1 gallon of milk, 1 gallon of water, and 2 cups sugar, and bring it to a boil.
2. Add 1 dozen ears of cleanly shucked corn on the cob and cook until the kernels are tender.
3. In a rectangular cake pan, mix 2 cups grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
4. Roast the corn on the grill to add some color.
5. Pull the corn off the grill and roll it in melted butter.
6. Roll the corn in the parmesan mixture until lightly coated.
7. Serve with a lime wedge. Be prepared to share the recipe!

The Whitney
Chef Paul Jackman
4421 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201

Q: How can I make smart snack choices?

A: A big part of healthy eating is being sure to include more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy snacks are a great way to make sure that you get these nutritious foods every day. For starters, find healthier substitutes for high-fat snacks. If your favorite high-fat snack is potato chips and dip, try baked tortilla chips with bean dip or hummus instead. Keep healthy snacks with you for when you get hungry. If the snacks are easily available, it’s less likely that you’ll pick up something unhealthy. Try these:

Spicy Watermelon & Pistachios: Toss 2 cups diced watermelon with 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and ½ teaspoon grated lime zest. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons of chopped, unsalted roasted pistachios.

Ham & Jicama Wraps: Dividing evenly, wrap 6 jicama sticks with 3 slices of ham. Accompany with 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard for dipping.

Roast Beef with Horseradish Cream on Pear: Mix together 1 tablespoon low fat sour cream and 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish. Divide evenly atop ½ sliced pear with 3 slices deli roast beef, the horseradish cream, and fresh herbs (such as chervil, parsley, or tarragon).

Whole Grain Bread, Almond Butter & Peaches: Spread 2 teaspoons almond butter on 1 slice toasted whole-grain bread. Top with ½ sliced peach.

StoryPoint Senior Living
Tim Bryant CEC, Corporate Executive Chef
Brighton, MI 48114

Q: Why do foods cooked on the teppan tables taste different than foods cooked at home?

A: There’s a reason why the food tastes better when grilled on the teppan table, or teppanaki, at Genji. Unlike a flat grill found at home or in many restaurants, the teppan table at Genji is composed of material that can retain heat. When fresh meat is placed on Genji’s teppan table, it sears quickly, which locks in the juices. Vegetables remain fresh, firm, and crispy, which is one of the many reasons customers love Genji’s vegetables.

Even with the high temperature at the teppan table, diners don’t feel the heat as they sit surrounding the table to watch expert chefs prepare meals. Enjoying a meal around Genji’s teppan table is an experience you can’t have at home and, try as you might, it’s impossible to replicate its delicious flavor.

Genji of Novi
Lom Poungthana, Executive Chef
27155 South Karevich Dr.
Novi, MI 48377

Q: What does it take to develop a restaurant brand?

A: After moving to Cleveland 10 years ago, it was clear to me that the city, like Detroit, was poised for resurgence and the dining scene was expanding. Who would have thought that Cleveland is now recognized as one of the top foodie destinations nationally? When I opened Crop Bistro nine years ago, it was important to establish my style quickly and build a brand. I now have five locations and five very different concepts. To expand within the city it was important to grow with the neighborhoods as they were evolving, and to ensure that I wouldn’t dilute the original Crop Bistro value. With the new and diverse Crop concepts, we could create new value to become a destination for our local Cleveland customers and the growing visitor base.

Crop Bistro is our premier location and features innovative American foods in an upscale, vintage historic bank. Crop Kitchen, in University Circle, is the casual comfort food spot; Crop Sticks features our “new Asian” menu; and Crop Rocks fills the rock-and-roll bar and grill theme. Our On-air Studio is a state-of-the-art entertainment venue and has a rotating menu themed with the genre of the show.

The ability to promote the different venues and styles greatly helps our effort to broaden our customer base and expand their horizons, as well as ours.

Crop Bistro & Bar
Steve Schimoler, Owner/Chef
2537 Lorain Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44113

Q: How do I utilize everything from the garden, root to stem?

A: As chefs, we want to make sure that we don’t waste anything from the garden, and we try to be creative in utilizing of products in the garden. One important ingredient in a useful garden is to plant lots of herbs. You can utilize herbs in so many ways, from homemade vinaigrettes to marinades to using the whole leaves in salads. It’s also great to put together chive flowers, mint, oregano, and thyme to create an herb centerpiece for the buffet table.

Lavender also has many uses, from teas to vodka infusion, honey, and ice cream. Lavender flowers look great on a cheese plate as a beautiful garnish, and are equally great in a lavender Moscow mule. Did you know the stems of beets can be tempura-fried for an earthly delicious treat? Or that squash blossoms can be stuffed with herbed cheese and tempura- fried to yield another meal from one product? Broccoli leaves are also an underutilized product. When they’re sauteed, braised, or cooked with smoked meat it yields an amazing dish, and one that your friends would never expect.

Great Lakes Culinary Center
Reva Constantine, Executive Chef
24101 W. Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48033

Q: What would you cook for yourself if you only had 30 minutes to cook it?

A: I often find myself having to come up with something for dinner, fast, when I get home from work. My go-to quick dinner option is breakfastfor- dinner. Like many chefs, after a long day in the kitchen, I don’t want to cook an elaborate dinner but I do want something delicious.

I always keep Southern-style hash brown potatoes in the freezer because I love making a variety of hashes. It’s so versatile, and also a great way to use up leftovers! My favorites are salmon hash, pulled pork hash, and steak hash. Top the hash with two over-easy eggs and add some toast for an awesome, delicious, and fast dinner, with very little mess.

Joe’s Produce Gourmet Market
Lee Ulrich, Executive Chef
33152 Seven Mile Rd.
Livonia, MI 48152

Q: How do you cook a steak in a cast iron skillet?

A: The ability to produce great meals quickly to satisfy our clients’ every whim in a timely fashion is what we do best. This method always has perfect results. First, start off by looking for a steak that’s labeled either Prime or Choice. These are the best cuts of meat (Prime is the best). Have the butcher cut the steak at least an inch and a half to 2 inches thick. Add salt on both sides, and allow the meat to reach room temperature.

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet until it’s extremely hot. Then, using tongs, carefully add the steak, allowing it to cook until a crust forms on the bottom, about two minutes. Flip over and cook for two minutes. Place the steak in the oven for fi ve minutes for a perfect medium rare. Then let the steak rest for seven minutes, and top with a tablespoon of herb butter.

Enzo’s Catering
Vincenso Samueli Sencich, Owner
4485 Strawberry Lake Rd.
Whitmore Lake, MI 48189

Q1: Why choose sustainable seafood, and how do you know the seafood you’re buying is the best choice?

A: Making the decision to purchase only sustainable seafood is extremely helpful to the environment and something I hope you consider. Seafood that is sustainable has many identifying factors, including: tracking the population of the species and their ability to reproduce, the carbon footprint left by industrial fishing, the effects fishing has on all sea life in the natural ecosystem, and the quality of work life for the fisherman.

At the Detroit Zoo, we make the commitment to only purchase and serve sustainable seafood. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and I can give you a couple of tips to follow to help you at the grocery store or fi sh market. There are two best practices to assist you in understanding about the fi sh you’re buying. The first is to know the person you’re buying from — talk to them and ask questions. Find out where they’re sourcing the fish from, and ask if they can tell you with certainty that the fish is sustainable.

The second thing I recommend is to download the Seafood Watch app for your iPhone. Seafood Watch is a program located at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They have a user-friendly app that helps identify sustainable fish using a green light for best choices, yellow light for good alternatives, and red light for fish to avoid.

Q2: What’s the expiration date for dried spices?

A: Most manufacturers label dried spices with a “best by” date instead of an expiration date. Unlike expiration dates found on meat, dairy, or other foods that can harbor bacteria, eating foods cooked with spices consumed past their date won’t actually harm you.

The “best by” date is to let you know that, over time, spices will lose their potency and quality, and won’t enhance the flavor of your food as distinctly. Generally, the “best by” date is around two years after the spices are sealed. However, most chefs (including me) will advise you that dried spices are best when used within the fi rst six months.

The Detroit Zoo
Daniel Kahn, Executive Chef
8450 West 10 Mile Rd.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-541-5717, ext. 3144

Q: What sets you apart from other chefs?

A: Because I was born and raised in Mexico City, I believe I’m a worthy representative of the contemporary Mexican cuisine. I graduated from Centro Culinario Ambrosia and continued to develop my culinary skills at some of the best restaurants in the world — all of which have earned the prestigious honor of two or three Michelin stars.

In 2008, my signature restaurant, Le Chique, opened its doors as part of Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Today, Le Chique is ranked among the best restaurants in Mexico, and has earned awards and accolades including Travel + Leisure Magazine’s Gourmet Awards, The Best of the Best (2014), Best Tasting Menu (2012, 2015), Most Beautiful Dishes (2013) and Restaurant of the Year (2014) by Millesime Mexico. In 2014 and 2015, Le Chique received the prestigious Five Diamond Award from AAA.

I am a frequent participant at gastronomy conferences and exhibitions in Mexico and abroad, and have shared the stage with renowned leaders from the culinary industry.

I believe that nothing can be realized without a great team and a great family. Thanks to my team, for being the balance in the madness, and to my wife and kids for being the source of inspiration in this great race called life.

Le Chique, Azul Sensatori Hotel
Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna Torres
Carretera Cancun - Puerto Morelos
Manz 37, Super Manz 12,
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Phone: 011.52 (998) 872-8450

Q: Should we eat wild Alaskan king salmon or Atlantic farmed salmon?

A: All Pacific salmon spend their early days in freshwater rivers and their adult lives in the Pacific Ocean. When it’s time to spawn, most return to their natal streams. A female wild salmon will lay as many as 10,000 orange-red roe, but only 1 in 500 might survive. Those that do will feed on fish, mollusk, and lots of krill, giving them their distinct pink flesh and rich, omega-3 fatty acids, which are so good for our heart, eyesight, and brain function.

Atlantic farmed salmon are created from surgically extracted eggs and sperm. Once hatched, they spend one year in a freshwater tank that’s gradually made salty. At 8 to 10 inches in length, they’re vaccinated and placed in a netted pen that measures 40 to 150 feet across, joining tens of thousands of other salmon. They are fed pellets made of fish meal, fish oil, and even grain, and additives turn their flesh pink. Harvested at 8 to 20 pounds, farmed salmon have approximately the same healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but two-thirds more saturated fat per serving.

Wild Alaskan salmon (king, coho, sockeye) is all natural and sustainably managed, with an excellent flavor profile. To me, choosing wild is a no-brainer.

Joe Muer Seafood Restaurant
Chef Eric Ward,
GM Renaissance Center
400 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48243

Q: What are the keys to making a great ceviche?

A: A nice summertime appetizer or entree, ceviche, simply put, is raw fish cured in citrus juices that’s mixed with vegetables and spices. The No. 1 key is to use the freshest fish and vegetables possible. Start with great fish and enhance that flavor. Really fresh fish smells like the ocean, is firm to the touch, and has a glossy iridescence. We like to use halibut, striped bass, grouper, or even shrimp or scallops. Avoid fish that’s frozen, oily, strong-flavored, or will get too soft in the marinade. You can use a number of vegetables. We like finely diced red onion, avocado, bell and hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and cucumber.

It’s important to cut everything the same size, so both fish and vegetables will marinate properly. A good marinade ratio is a half cup of lime or lemon juice to one pound of fish and vegetables for the best flavor profile. Let it marinade for 10 to 15 minutes, until the fish becomes opaque and lightly pickled.

I like to keep ceviche very cold until just before serving. Then I finish it with cilantro and a little olive oil, and add crispy tortilla chips or flatbread.

Forte BelangerCatering
Kenneth Rae, Senior Executive Chef
700 Stephenson Highway
Troy, MI 48083

Q: What is a savory mousseline, and what are some applications for it?

A: A savory mousseline is usually a pureed protein like shrimp or chicken, or a vegetable, that’s folded with whipped cream and/or beaten egg whites to give it a light, airy consistency and to lighten the texture. Savory mousselines are very versatile in a professional kitchen and can be made from almost any meat, protein, or vegetable.

Some of my favorite uses involve shellfish and fresh seafood. Using lobster mousseline instead of mayonnaise as a binder in a crab cake recipe creates a nice, light, textured cake that’s full of flavor and also very unique. Using a crab mousseline for stuffing trout, sole, flounder, or any other delicate fish helps hold it together during the cooking process, adds eye appeal, and gives it a wow factor. I also use shellfish or salmon mousseline as the force meat in most of my seafood based terrines, because of the contributing fat content and the overall texture it provides.

Portofino Restaurant & Banquet Facility
Jeffrey Mellas, Executive Chef
3455 Biddle Ave.
Wyandotte, MI 48192

Q: Why is buying local important to your menu?

A: The menu is the keystone to a restaurant — especially an independent restaurant. If restaurants have a similar menu and they’re buying from the same place, I believe it diminishes the purpose of going to a restaurant, which is to have a unique experience. Here are my reasons for buying local:

1. Buying local helps you create memorable dining because you’re getting distinctive or specially grown things that aren’t going to taste anywhere near a counterpart’s offerings.

2. What was a trend is now normal in the restaurant business — and it’s becoming an industry here in Detroit. Depending on the product and your volume, sometimes it’s the best option. Local farmers and growers are responding well to keeping up with demand and growing their business. It’s creating jobs and diversifying the area, and at the same time it’s good for restaurants.

3. It’s just good to eat what’s grown around you if you want healthy living. Locally grown items are usually fresher, too.

The Huron Room
Chef Les Molnar
2547 Bagley
Detroit, MI 48216

Q: Why smell your food?

A: Sensory evaluation through smells can tell you many things about your ingredients and the food you’re about to eat. In the kitchen, we do it all the time. Whether it’s fresh produce, herbs, spices, or meat and fish, normally to smell is the first step. We do this to ensure the utmost quality and freshness, and you should do the same.

When purchasing meats and seafood from a butcher counter, don’t be afraid to ask to smell the product. This shouldn’t offend butchers and fishmongers; rather, they should consider you a connoisseur.

Smell your food.

Dirty Dog Jazz Café
Andre Neimanis, Executive Chef
97 Kercheval Ave.
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236


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