Chef Q&A

Chef Q&A: Thai Bistro’s Lada Sripinyo

Photo credit: Barron

Years ago when our family moved from New York to Michigan a friend told us we had to try the Thai Bistro in Canton. Italian food. Chinese food. Mexican food. Japanese food. I’d already learned that I liked to sample a variety of flavors. But I’d never had Thai fare, with its spicy-sweet sauces, rich curries and tender noodles. The first time we went to Thai Bistro, I ordered the drunken noodles. I was hooked.

The owner and chef of Thai Bistro, Lada Sripinyo moved from Thailand to the U.S. in 1968 and at the urging of a friend opened the restaurant in 1994. “I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” explains Sripinyo. The eatery quickly drew notice and a devoted following in the area. “We opened in February 1994 and by April we were very popular,” she recalls.

For a MKES first, the digital-shy Sripinyo passed along a handwritten recipe for her Thai BBQ ribs.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

Chile. Red chile, onion, garlic.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

My favorite is ga poa guy because it’s a little spicy and it tastes really good. It’s very popular here at the restaurant.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?

Dark chocolate. Not in ice cream. Either in a bar or a box, I just like dark chocolate.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

I don’t know. Maybe once when I made a stir-fry and I put too much salt in it and it was way too salty. I didn’t even let people try it. I tried it and then just threw it out.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

Potato chips.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Thai Bistro? What menu item should they make sure to try?

If they like noodles then the pad thai—it’s a little sweet and it’s very popular here. You can choose whether you want it mild or spicy. If you like something with rice than the ga poa guy is very good and spicy. It comes with chicken, Thai basil, red pepper. The eggplant stir-fry with shrimp is very good too.

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Chef Q&A: The Jolly Pumpkin’s Maggie Long

Photo credit: esthereggy

The concept for the Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery has literally been stewing for years. The eatery located in downtown Ann Arbor is the brainchild of chef, and managing partner, Maggie Long and brewer extraordinaire Ron Jeffries. Jeffries has been crafting his artisanal sour beers in Dexter, Michigan for years and now has a restaurant and brewery in Traverse City along with the café, which opened in September of 2009.

Long says the philosophy behind the food at the café is fresh, organic. For example, her oldest daughter volunteers at an area farm where some of the ingredients come from for the café. And the sourdough pizza is fashioned with a sourdough starter that Long received from a fellow foodie whose held onto it for 130 years. Beyond the fresh ingredients, Long says that the aim of the café is “welcoming.” “We want everyone to feel comfortable here, especially families,” explains Long. “I love to see families here and I’m honored to provide food for them that is both healthy and delicious.” She notes that the menu includes kid favorites like chicken strips, but that the strips are made from locally raised chickens and breaded in organic cornflakes.

For a taste of Long’s organic creations, you can try this recipe from the Jolly Pumpkin café’s appetizer menu; this edamame spread is served alongside fresh, grilled sourdough pizza.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

Quinoa, organic peanut butter—it’s gotta be crunchy, and honey from the farmer’s market. Those are the staples in my house. It doesn’t mean I put those all together!

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

That’s a hard one. I absolutely love Tamworth hogs. A braised pork shoulder is my favorite meal–slow cooked. Tamworth is a heritage breed of hog and it’s a flavor not to be missed. It’s a darker meat and it has a ton of flavor.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?

Ron introduced me to Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate, a small chocolate maker in Missouri. I’m not usually a fan of dark chocolate but the stuff this guy puts together is absolutely amazing. My favorite is the 70% Madagascar chocolate bar with little cocoa nibs in it. It’s addictive.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

Anything that I burn. Once, I burned the mac ‘n cheese sauce—totally toasted it. I tried to fix it, but you can’t. I use really good pasta and really good cheeses, but nothing can take that scorched flavor out.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

For me, anything seasonal. Rosewood Farms makes a phenomenal tofu.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Jolly Pumpkin? What menu item should they make sure to try?

I make a smoked tofu salad that’s really good. There’s spinach, cherry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, shaved broccoli, a sesame vinaigrette and, of course, smoked tofu. The flavors meld really well. The sourdough pizza is always good too.

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Q&A with Michael Metevia, Slow’s BBQ in Detroit

With barbecue staples like St. Louis spare ribs and Carolina-style pulled pork served alongside one-of-a-kind creations like beef brisket, smoked gouda enchiladas and salads called the Charles Bronson (and kickin’ flavors to match the epithet) it’s no wonder that Slow’s Bar BQ has become an it spot in Detroit since opening its doors nearly five years ago.

An anchor in the emerging rebirth of the Corktown area, Slow’s, takes pride in using fresh, local ingredients and all-natural meats, explains the head chef of the kitchen, Michael Metevia. He also notes that “the staff here is great and they work really hard give it there all.” The flavorful, slow-smoked entrees along with a diligent staff, has made the BBQ joint popular among a diverse clientele—from business people to hipsters to families and, of course, Tigers fans. Metevia recommends that families try out the restaurant during one of their off hours, between 2pm to 4pm, “or you can come right when the doors open at 11am.” (Early lunch before a venture to the Detroit Science Center, anyone?) Metevia made the mistake of bringing in his 15-month-old during a Tigers’ game were lively fans filled the 80-seat establishment. The crowded restaurant induced a fit in the younger Metevia; since dad/chef has avoided bringing him in during busy times. Metevia points out that Slow’s does take reservations for parties over six people, so if you’re set on a certain time, grab some friends and call ahead to make sure you get in.

Below, Metevia shares some of his thoughts on cooking, as well as his own recipe for something fun to grill this summer—vegetables. He roasts a variety of veggies and then purees them for a summer soup that can be served either warm or cold.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
As simple as it sounds, I always have kosher salt, fresh peppercorns and quality olive oil. I put those ingredients in almost everything. I also use a lot of quinoa [a healthy, whole grain seed prepared like barley] and coconut oil.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?
At home my favorite meal is pot roast. It’s a great family meal and easy to put together—everyone is always satisfied. But I don’t always prepare it the same way. I don’t like to be in a rut and I think that happens to a lot of people when it comes to cooking. When you’re cooking for kids especially, it’s important that you mix things up so that they won’t become fickle when it comes to food. I like to mix it up, use different fresh herbs—it really depends from time to time what I use. Most of the time, I use some red wine, usually mushrooms.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?
Coney dogs. Usually, I’m a pretty conscientious eater and in general I try to find organic, natural foods. I know it’s bad for you, but I love having a Coney dog. With everything. It’s part of living in Detroit.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I made 20 loaves of banana bread using salt instead of sugar. I could try to blame someone else—whoever did the stocking in the kitchen put salt in the sugar container—but I should have checked. All 20 were in the oven and then I tested one. I just spit it out it was so salty. That’s definitely the biggest cooking mistake I’ve ever made and I haven’t made one like it since.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Calder’s chocolate milk. That stuff is delicious and the dairy is located in Lincoln Park.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Slow’s Bar BQ? What menu item should they make sure to try?
If it’s your first time, I recommend the mac ‘n cheese. Our preparation is unique to Slow’s with the dish—we find people just come back again and again for more. Everything is made from scratch—it’s really just good, old-style homecooking.

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Q&A with the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s Top Chef, Frank Turner

Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

Would you choose hospital fare for your next date night? Maybe you should. The Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, which opened its doors just over a year ago, features not only a restaurant, Henry’s Cafe, where chefs are on hand to craft your meal as you watch, but they also offer a state-of-the-art kitchen demonstration area where you can learn a variety of cooking techniques and nutritional helps to improve what you offer at home.

The chef behind the new concept of tastier, better-for-you hospital food is Frank Turner, a Michigan native and a passionate advocate for locally produced, sustainable products. Chef Turner has a long history in Michigan’s top restaurants as well as volunteering in Detroit-area food kitchens. Today, as the Director of Food and Nutrition and Executive Chef at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Chef Turner is helping patients learn how to choose foods that will help aid in their recovery and he’s lending his expertise to cooking courses offered to the public at the demonstration kitchen. Classes fill up quickly, so enroll early. But to get your own experience with fresh fare, head to Henry’s Café any night of the week or stop by on Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm, when there’s a farmers market open onsite.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Olive oil, quinoa, and dried fruit. I love dried Turkish apricots, as long as they’re sulfate free.

How about your favorite meal?
Chicken dumplings. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and she always served it, and then my mother. You make it by poaching chicken in stock [gently simmering the meat in the flavored liquid]. Then you take out the chicken, pull the meat off the bone and reserve it while you cook the dumplings. Once the dumplings are cooked, you take them off and cook down the broth until it thickens—and there’s your stock. The chicken is always tender. And my mother would serve it with some sort of braised vegetable to the side.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Snickers. I don’t have them very often, but I like a great big, king size classic Snickers bar with a glass of milk. But it’s a toss up between that and Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I’ve done it all—burnt the soup, opened the blender when it’s going, burned the heck out of myself. The silliest thing I ever did, though, was when I forgot to label some stock [broth] that I made for a sauce that went with a special recipe. It was a short rib lamb dish. I had to get the pieces cut especially for the dish. I had created this stock using boar bones and fowl venison. It was probably the best stock I’ve ever made. Well, someone used it in the soup that day and I didn’t have anything for my special dish so I had to improvise. The dish turned out fine, but I must say that was one really good soup. Great beef barley!

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Asparagus. Michigan asparagus has a distinct flavor that you don’t find anywhere else. It has a nutty flavor. I like to grill it and then serve it with cracked pepper, citrus zest and a splash of Manchego or Parmesan cheese.

The American station, burger of the day—you’ll find that it’s never a beef hamburger. It’ll be something besides ground beef—white fish burger or a chickpea burger, quinoa and black bean burger, but it won’t be a ground beef burger. [There are seven chef-manned stations to choose from.]

If you’d like to sample one of Chef Turner’s recipes at home, try putting together his nutritional-packed brownies. The dessert includes a puree of blueberry and spinach for a boost of anti-oxidants that blends perfectly with the intense chocolate flavor.

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Q&A with The Henry Ford’s Head Chef, Nick Seccia

Oven-Seared Amish-Raised Chicken Chop
Decadent & creative

Fiddling in the kitchen one day, The Henry Ford’s Executive Chef, Nick Seccia, dreamed up one of his signature creations—a flavor-infused chicken breast modeled after a pork chop. Using fresh herbs grown at the Greenfield Village (the historic town which is part of the museum’s property) and animals raised on local farms, Chef Nick concocted the inventive dish. Did I mention that the chicken breast is wrapped in bacon?

Buying local not only helps support Michigan’s economy, explains Chef Nick, but it’s also good for the environment too. And there’s an even better reason why Chef Nick uses local ingredients in his professional kitchen and in his home—it tastes better. For home cooks, Chef Nick suggests getting to know the farmers’ markets in your area. He’s also a regular at the Eastern Market in Detroit. “I remember how exciting it was to go there as a child,” recalls Chef Nick, who grew up in Novi and Gaylord. “It’s really coming back. It’s a lively, happening place now with lots of great, local vendors.”

Below Chef Nick, who regularly creates everything from 5-course meals for high-end events to finger foods for visiting school groups to menus for the museum’s on-site eateries, shares some insights into his cooking style. He also passed along the recipe for his Oven-Seared, Amish-Raised Chicken “Chop” with Morel Sauce.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
It’s tough to choose just three. But, I’d have to say veal stock, fresh herbs and butter. Real butter.

What is your favorite meal to make or eat?
Anything braised. I like dishes where the meat has been seared and then cooked for a long time so that it just becomes tender.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Chocolate. I like ganaches (smooth, creamy chocolate sauce or frosting) that are made with a high percentage of chocolate.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I learned how to cook first and when you’re cooking you create dishes using your eyes and your palette. I tried to do the same with baking. Now this was a long time ago, but I made this cake without measuring any ingredients. I can’t even remember what kind of cake it was supposed to be–it was just terrible.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Real Michigan maple syrup.

What do you suggest for first-timers to The Henry Ford? What menu item should they make sure to try?
At the Eagle Tavern, we make our own sausage. We use Berkshire hogs. And these hogs are raised exclusively on apple pulp. It’s something you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’d like a taste of Chef Nick’s culinary creations, you can head to The Henry Ford in Dearborn and try any of the eateries there, or you can master one of his dishes at home.

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Oven-Seared Amish-Raised Chicken “Chop” with Morel Sauce

Oven-Seared Amish-Raised Chicken Chop
Decadent & creative

Oven Seared Amish Raised Chicken “Chop” with Morel Sauce
Nick Seccia CEC
Serves 6

Chicken Chop
Ingredients

6 Airline cut Amish raised chicken breast 6-8oz ea
6 Slices thick cut hickory smoked bacon
1/4 Cup pure olive oil
2 Cloves garlic peeled
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
2 Tablespoon fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper
Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken and bacon, puree in a blender
  2. Remove the meat and skin from around the bone on the chicken
  3. Pour marinade over the chicken and marinate overnight
  4. Place chicken skin side down flat with the bone pointing away from you then roll the thin edge towards the chicken until rolled into a chop shape
  5. Stand chicken up so the bone is straight up then wrap the bacon around the bottom
  6. Roast at 350F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through
  7. Serve with morel sauce

Morel Sauce
Ingredients

1 cup fresh Morel mushrooms sliced in half lengthwise and cleaned
1 large shallot minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup roasted veal stock reduced from 2 cups
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and ground black pepper as needed
Directions

  1. Saute the mushrooms and shallots in butter until the shallots are clear and the mushrooms are tender
  2. Add the brandy and reduce until almost dry
  3. Add the stock and heavy cream reduce until thickened
  4. Season with salt and pepper
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Q&A with The Fly Trap’s Kara McMillian

The Fly Trap's Red Chile Salmon Burger

A creamy combo of cheddar, smoked Gouda, and Blue cheeses mixed in with the trademark elbow macaroni, then topped with caramelized onions. Is your mouth watering yet? That’s the description of The Fly Trap’s 3 Cheese and Mac. I’ve had friends go in and order this dish planning on eating about a third of it at the diner and then snacking on the rest for a week afterwards.

Located in Ferndale, The Fly Trap’s notoriety for serving classic dishes alongside funky favorites like Asian pho bowls and tofu fried rice have made it not only a hit among locals, but even the Food Network has featured its fixins’ on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (that’s where I first heard about it).

Kara McMillian and her brother Sean McClanaghan, are the co-owners of the popular dining spot. Kara’s husband, Gavin, is the brain (and head chef!) behind the eclectic, mouth-watering menu. Here, she spills on her favorite ingredients—and her go-to dish when she dines at work.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

I love cooking with spice. Big flavors are what set us apart. That’s our biggest complaint when we have new guests come to the restaurant–we like to add a little spice to our dishes. At home we always have Sambal Oelek, which is a Vietnamese red chili paste, on hand. Olive oil. Locally made tofu.

Your favorite meal?

My favorite meal on the menu is the fried rice. We use short grain brown rice, tons of roasted eggplant and red pepper; shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms; carrots; sugar snap peas; fresh spinach; and a splash of chili paste. It’s so good with lots of veggies and whole grain rice. Mmmm. It’s something that I like to have to take home with me.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?

I recently took up making desserts. I used recipes from Baked, which is from a bakery in New York City. Their brownies are absolutely spectacular. I get requests for pans and more pans. The key is there’s the smallest amount of espresso powder in the brownies and that turns the corner with the flavor—they are super rich.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

I made a whole batch of cookies once and let people eat them without trying them myself. They had way too much flour and baking soda in them.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

Tofu. We buy our tofu from Michigan Soy Products in Royal Oak. It’s a really good product. We also get fresh fruit and fresh-squeezed juices from the Western Market right here in Ferndale.

What do you suggest for first-timers to The Fly Trap? What menu item should they make sure to try?

There are two categories of first timers. For a real crowd-pleaser, I would suggest the Charmoula Chicken, which is a North African spiced chicken breast, jack cheese, caramelized onion on grilled sourdough with a lemon, garlic aioli. But for those who are a little more adventurous, I’d recommended the Vietnamese pho bowl, which is a really brothy, spicy dish that has your choice of tofu or chicken, rice and tons of veggies. On a cold day, it’s really heartwarming.

If you’d like to get a taste of The Fly Trap at home, McMillian graciously shared her recipe the Red Chili Salmon burger.

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