The class of 2000 at Schoolcraft College’s culinary program included a number of bright lights, none more so than Reva Bell, whose career in high-end cooking took off from the very start.
Propelled by enthusiastic endorsements from her professors, including chef Dan Hugelier, she quickly established herself as one of the area’s up-and-coming young chefs, with a five-year stint at the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, followed by executive-chef posts at Villa Maria in West Bloomfield Township and Gravity Bar & Grill in Milford.
Then it was back to the Ritz, where she was named chef de cuisine last year.
That’s where Joseph Maiorana Jr., the “Joe” of Joe’s Produce and Gourmet Market in Livonia, found her when he was expanding his prepared-foods department.
She turned him down the first time he asked, but decided to take the job as executive chef when he pressed the matter a second time.
Although she says she misses sending pretty plates out to the dining room, she has embraced her new role, which better fits her lifestyle as a wife and mother of two small children.
No more working nights for Bell — now Reva Bell Constantine — who arrives at the market at 6 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday and immediately grabs a shopping cart. “I fill it up with whatever floats my boat,” she says.
It must be a chef’s equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop, to be able to pick out anything she wants for the market’s Hot Line, a daily-changing array of freshly prepared dishes inspired by what she finds in the produce section.
Although the Hot Line has daily themes, they aren’t set in stone by any means, except for Saturday’s all-American comfort food and soulful Sunday. “I can cook any way I want to,” Bell says. “Fancy food — I can do that, comfort homestyle, literally whatever I want.”
Working with her in the big, open kitchen on one side of the market are two other 2000 Schoolcraft graduates, chef Aaron True and Christopher Hammack, who was promoted from cook to sous-chef by Bell.
“He’s such a great chef,” Bell says of Hammack. “We cook well together.” She calls him her “cooking soul mate.”
Among the other professionals at Joe’s is pastry chef Teresa Summers (also a Schoolcraft grad), who makes the cakes, cookies, and pastries for the store; and sommelier Michael Larranaga, who runs the spacious wine room.
The market is an interesting story in itself. It stands on the very soil where the current Joe’s grandfather had a farm and roadside stand in 1945. The store was established in 1967 by Maiorana’s father, and now has expanded into much more than a produce market, although Maiorana still goes to the produce terminal every day to stock the fruit-and-vegetable bins where the chef finds her inspiration.
Joe’s Produce Gourmet Market, 33152 W. Seven Mile Rd., east of Farmington Road, Livonia; 248-477-4333.