Motor City Seafood Contributes to Detroit's Culinary Renaissance

Motor City Seafood Contributes to Detroit's Culinary Renaissance

Detroit has been through a lot, but it is gracefully coming back as a world-class city.

One way to confirm this is through the city’s growing culinary offerings. For example, high-quality seafood.

Although, chefs “get most of the glory when it comes to dining… a chef is only as good as their vendors,” as pointed out by “Detroit Metro Times” reporter Tom Perkins.

Perkins was referring to Matthew Wiseman, in particular, co-owner of Motor City Seafood.

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Quick Six With… James Rigato, Detroit Chef & Restaurateur

Quick Six With… James Rigato, Detroit Chef & Restaurateur

By Jessica Bryant, Managing Editor

At 31 years old, James Rigato’s plate is heaping with opportunity. Last year, he opened Mabel Gray, located in Detroit suburb Hazel Park, which is now up for a James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant.” To be qualified for this award, a restaurant must have opened in the calendar year before the award is given, it must already display excellence in food, beverage, and service, and is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

With 43 seats, Mabel Gray serves locally sourced American cuisine from a handwritten menu that is changed out daily. The menu generally includes 8 to 12 items and shifts 25 to 50 percent each day. “Most dishes don’t last longer than a week,” said Rigato. He cooks on the line every night.

But this isn’t Rigato’s first restaurant. At the age of 26, he opened The Root in White Lake, Mich., which also showcases local ingredients. It was named “Restaurant of the Year” in 2012 by the Detroit Free Press. More recently, Rigato, who holds many accolades, was named “The People’s Best New Chef: Great Lakes” in 2015 by Food & Wine.

If you think he looks familiar, you may have seen Rigato in the 12th season of “Top Chef,” an opportunity he said taught him a lot about how to look at his dishes and the season, and how to edit.

“It definitely made me a better chef and I’m really appreciative of that opportunity,” he said. “The big win was really to network, so now I have friends I didn’t before and that’s better than winning.”

A graduate of Schoolcraft College’s culinary arts program, Rigato started his career at restaurants such as Morel’s, Shiraz, Rugby Grille at The Townsend Hotel, and Bacco Ristorante.

Below, we ask the chef six quick questions about the restaurant that changed his life, the most important lesson he’s learned as an operator, and which culinary trend needs to fade out.

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Sound Bites: 2016 James Beard Award Semi-Finalists

Sound Bites: 2016 James Beard Award Semi-Finalists

It’s that time of year again. Last week, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2016 semi-finalists. On March 15th, the finalists will be chosen. No matter, making any round of the JBFAs is an honor and a privilege to both rising culinary stars and vets who continue to innovate their dishes, cocktails, and/or concepts. Below, we gather some of the best sound bites from the past year of semi-finalists we have had the privilege of interviewing and filming with. Make sure to check out the full list of semi-finalists here.

James Rigato, owner at Mabel Gray in Hazel Park, MI
Nominated for: Best New Restaurant

On business so far at Mabel Gray:
“We handwrite the menu; it’s about an 8-12 item menu and it changes 25-50 percent a day. Most dishes don’t last longer than a week. A couple of dishes I kept around like this crazy fried (savory) banana (with cilantro and jalapeño) I kept around … it’s important to have offerings for people to talk about, come in and check out.”

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James Rigato: Keeping It Real in Detroit

James Rigato: Keeping It Real in Detroit

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

Millennial chef James Rigato dishes on his new restaurant Mabel Gray, the most important lessons learned while being a “Top Chef” contestant, and why he’s sick of a white-collar food industry.

Before he appeared on the 12th season of “Top Chef,” James Rigato had already built a reputation in Michigan as one of the area’s top chefs with his award-winning restaurant, The Root, in suburban Oakland County in Michigan. 

Even though the 31-year-old chef was unceremoniously booted for a “meh” seafood salad that critics panned, he brought a lot of attention to his beloved Great Lakes State, to which he pays homage to in his dishes, as well as made new chef friends with whom to collaborate, one of his favorite culinary endeavors.

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