In 2004, when Rick Halberg’s Northville restaurant, Emily’s, marked its 10th anniversary, chef/proprietor Halberg took his 14-member staff out for a celebratory dinner.
The destination he chose was Eve, the Ann Arbor restaurant that is the alter ego of Eve Aronoff.
He knew of Aronoff through mutual friends who thought they might be kindred spirits. “A couple of different people had told me about Eve — the kind of person she is and the kind of restaurant that she had, and suggested that we get together,” he says.
They were right. At that anniversary dinner, Halberg says, “We clicked on a level that was real comfortable for both of us.” Later, they collaborated on a wine dinner at Emily’s. “After that, we knew how much we had in common, our values, and just being really passionate about food,” Aronoff says. Both are proponents of the slow-food movement and making everything from scratch.
Little did either of them suspect that, in less than five years, the two would be a team. After two years as culinary director for Hiller’s Markets (a job Halberg took after Emily’s closed in 2006), the veteran restaurateur joined Eve as managing partner of the Kerrytown district restaurant, appropriately enough on New Year’s Eve at the arrival of this year.
“We share the feelings of what a restaurant should be,” Halberg says. “Our flavor profiles for food are very, very different; she’s more spice rubs, and North African and Cuban flavors, whereas mine were more Mediterranean, French, Italian, Spanish.
“But in terms of what a restaurant should be and how you should be made to feel when sitting at a fine restaurant — the sharing, the conviviality — in those aspects we are virtually identical.”
Don’t picture, however, two chefs competing over the stockpots. While Aronoff remains queen of the kitchen, Halberg has assumed the business aspects of the restaurant, as well as the front-of-the-house service and the wine list.
“I’m used to being the creator,” Halberg admits. “I have to bite my tongue now and then. But I realize I’m the new guy.”
Eve, corner of Fourth Avenue and Kingsley Street in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district; 734-222-0711. Dinner only Tue.-Sun.