Thursday, March 21, 2013

West Michigan Restaurateurs Take an Innovative Approach to Finance New Project

Chef Matthew Millar gestures animatedly toward the countryside outside his window when asked why he and his business partner decided to open their ambitious new restaurant St. Anthony in a sleepy tourist town in Michigan.

“There is so much to feel good about here: artists, musicians, farmers, winemakers, brewers, cider-makers...every year that goes by brings more and more great stuff to this community,” he says.

With national attention coming his way recently as the results of back-to-back semi-finalist nominations from the James Beard Awards, Millar could have directed his attention to larger markets, but “this is my home,” he says, “and trust me, the tide is slowly turning. West Michigan is about to pop. In a few years, I believe this will be the region of the Midwest every foodie will be talking about. It just takes that first step.”

“St. Anthony will be like nothing the region has seen before,” says business partner Brandon Joldersma.

The restaurant will focus on producing the foods in house that most restaurants don’t in an attempt to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the surrounding region. They plan to dry-cure, preserve and pickle, make cheese and churn butter, all with ingredients sourced from area farms. But before any of that can happen, they need to get the project financed.

“So far, we’ve had some good conversations with potential investors,” Joldersma says, “but not the right one.”

Millar admits restaurants are notoriously risky. “It can be hard to get them financed, especially by the right people.”

Finding the “right” financing can be tricky in an industry that sometimes attracts investors who get into the business for the wrong reasons. Some get swept up in the romance, others might expect too much too fast in terms of return, pushing restaurants to make sacrifices to quality that damage the brand.

The right investor for St. Anthony, Millar believes, “shares our passion for the region and wants to stand with us as we take things to the next level.”

Joldersma agrees. “We are looking for people who want to have a long lasting financial relationship with St. Anthony, who will share in its success for years to come.”

The kind of investor that helps a restaurant find real and lasting success is an unusual and sometimes rare bird, so Joldersma and Millar have taken a unique approach to sharing their business plan with potential investors.

“It was a strange initial idea. Neither of us had seen it done before. But it really came down to us asking ourselves, if we’re potentially able to reach more people this way — why not?” says Joldersma.

“There was nothing in our plan that was particularly proprietary,” Millar admits. “We weren’t trying to protect trade secrets or anything, so why exclude anyone from the conversation?”

This, of course, is a departure from the way fundraising is usually done. For a little while, Millar and Joldersma had been sharing their business plan in a few face-to-face conversations with personal contacts, but to them, this seemed at odds with the restaurants’ mission.

“Any good restaurant, but especially this one, is about community,” Millar says. “It lives and dies on the strength of its word of mouth, so why not include the public in the conversation from the very beginning? You never know who you are missing out on meeting when you keep your world small.”

The two decided to depart from the traditional format and build their business plan online, using the web address they had already purchased for marketing the restaurant once open. In addition to hosting the particulars for potential investors, the site serves as a kind of kiosk for updates about the project for anyone who is interested learning more.

“It has already gotten people talking and that alone makes it worthwhile,” Joldersma says.

What kind of fruit this innovative approach yields remains to be seen, but the two partners are optimistic.

“We will be as public as possible throughout the whole process,” Millar says. “We very much want St. Anthony to feel like it belongs to the community, like our little corner of the world wouldn’t feel right without it. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to include them at every available opportunity.”

Matthew is a 20 year veteran in the West Michigan restaurant scene. As owner of the locally iconic Journeyman in Fennville, Michigan, he began long term relationships with the growers and producers of West Michigan and works to share his enthusiasm for the region with as many passionate lovers of food and drink as possible. He is a two time James Beard Award semifinalist and authors the blog Post Agricultural Acts. He lives in Fennville with his wife, Amy Lee Cook.

Brandon has stewarded two of West Michigan's most prestigious wine programs, Butch's in Holland and Reserve in Grand Rapids. The wine programs he has overseen have won both an Award of Excellence and a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. He has also managed the Front of the House as Assistant General Manager in both of these establishments. He looks forward to the opportunity to communicate and share his passion and knowledge with others through his own establishment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Homestead Recognizes Merranda Hutchens & Logan Sanders as 2012 “Associates of the Year”

The Homestead – America’s Freshwater Resort – has announced two (2) winners of its esteemed 2012 “Associate of the Year” Award – including Logan Sanders, Reservation Manager and Merranda Hutchens – Laundry Manager.

Logan has worked at The Homestead since June, 2011. Born and raised in Midland, he graduated from Ferris State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management (majoring in Resort Management and minoring in Recreation & Leisure Management). In his spare time, Logan enjoys fishing, snowboarding, golfing, hiking and camping.

Merranda has worked at The Homestead since December, 2010. A native of New Lothrop (near Flint), she fell in love with the Leelanau area and moved to Maple City three years ago. The mother of three children (boys ages 5 and 13 and a girl, aged 12), she spends her free time hiking local trails and hitting the beaches with her kids.

In addition to the acclaim that the title “Associate of the Year” holds, Logan and Merranda each received a trip to any vacation destination of their choice within the United States, including airline tickets for two and $500 in spending money.

“We’ve been awarding the associate of the year for almost 20 years and this is the first time there has been an actual tie and has been awarded to two associates,” says Jamie Jewell, Vice President Sales & Marketing. ”All of us are proud of the outstanding work, commitment and dedication shown by these to associates. They are great examples for us all.”

With approximately 200 summer and 75 winter employees, The Homestead is one of the region’s largest single employers. The team is lead by members of a core group of associates who all believe that a job done right starts with taking a Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence. It’s called PRIDE.

From managers and trainers to year-round employees who do everything from taking reservations to working in outdoor maintenance, there are only 40 members of PRIDE. This special group is eligible for unique employment benefits at The Homestead – one of them being the distinction of “Associate of the Year.”

Other nominees for “Associate of the Year” in 2012 included:

• Diane Kemp, Manager Resort Realty
• Shane Wyatt, Utilities Manager
• Sallie Krepps, Spa & Salon Manager
• Kyle Gulley, Banquet Manager

The Homestead is Northern Michigan’s largest waterfront resort community located in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, an area voted by viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America as the “Most Beautiful Place in America”. Along with its unmatched natural setting and miles of frontage on Lake Michigan and the Crystal River, the resort offers guest pools, tennis and golf in the summer; downhill and cross country skiing in the winter; and shops, restaurants, meeting centers and the luxurious new Spa Amira throughout all four seasons.

For more information, visit or call 231.334.5100. “Like” The Homestead on Facebook: and follow on Twitter at @TheHomesteadMI.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Northern United Brewing Company Hires John Walsh as Head Brewer

In anticipation of the opening of its new 75,000-square-foot brewery in Dexter, Northern United Brewing Company has hired John Walsh as its new Head Brewer for the Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak brands. Walsh comes to Michigan most recently from Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii. Over his brewing career, Walsh has racked up a more than two dozen awards while crafting beer for Hawai’i Nui Brewing Company, Keoki Brewing Company and Oak Creek Brewing Company.

“The first time I drank a Jolly Pumpkin beer, I knew there was something different about them,” Walsh says of his first introduction more than 10 years ago. “There is literally like nothing else like it on the market. Other breweries make sour beers, but these are different.”

While visiting his home state of Michigan in 2005, Walsh stopped to visit Jolly Pumpkin and meet with owner/brewer Ron Jeffries.

“The thing that struck me about Ron was how humble he was about everything,” Walsh recalls. “He acted as if these amazing beers were just part of a day’s work.”

Walsh said he returned to Arizona, drinking JP beer whenever and wherever he could find them. And, he kept in touch with Jeffries with periodic emails. A few years later, the two reconnected at the Kona Brew Fest in Kailua-Kona, HI. There began discussions about a possible collaboration brew and by 2010, those talks began to take shape.

Walsh was working at Maui Brewing Company when the owner, Garrett Marrerro, asked him for input on who they should partner with for their first ever packaged collaboration beer. When Walsh suggested Jolly Pumpkin, Marrerro (a fan of JP and a friend of Jeffries’) gave the green light.

“He told me I had no boundaries or limits, cost restrictions or anything for the beer – just make something great,” says Walsh. “The next day while at a West Maui Beach, I texted Ron and asked him if he was really up for it – he was, so we began working on the recipe and tossing ideas back and forth.”

The two brewers worked together to come up with the recipe, while visiting each other’s brewing facilities. They then used their own brewing styles to create two distinct versions of the beer. Maui Brewing used standard fermentation while the Jolly Pumpkin version was an open-fermented, barrel aged and bottle conditioned sour ale, using naturally occurring wild yeasts. The brew, Sobrehumano Palena 'Ole, is a red ale, brewed with liliko'i (passion fruit) and Michigan cherries. The beer was promoted and released and received very positive reviews, winning a medal at the 2011 US Beer Open.

“I’m excited to join Ron in his efforts to expand both the Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak Brands,” says Walsh. “The new facility offers a lot of opportunities and possibilities.”

“John is a great brewer, and over the last few years has become a great friend,” says Ron. “Needless to say, our entire staff is super excited to have him join our family. Adventure awaits!”

NUBC encompasses the Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak and Grizzly Peak beer brands, Civilized Spirits and Bonafide Wines, all dedicated to conservation, inspiration and locally sustainable practices. Find NUBC products at stores, restaurants, and bars all throughout Michigan, including: North Peak Brewing Company, Mission Table and Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, all in Traverse City; Jolly Pumpkin and Grizzly Peak, in Ann Arbor.

Salt of the Earth & Virtue Cider Present “An American in Normandy” Dinner - Thursday, March 7

Join your friends at southwest Michigan’s premier farm-to-fork eatery for its next dinner featuring ingredients and beverages sourced within a 50 mile radius of Salt of the Earth. This month’s event – “An American in Normandy” Cider Dinner features beverages from the soon-to-open Virtue Cider of Fennville. The dinner will be held on Thursday, March 7 at 7pm. Cost is $65 per person, plus tax & gratuity. Space is limited and reservations are required by calling 269.561.7258.

The five-course menu and featured pairings include:

chilled winter root vegetable melange
apple gelee lardo wood roasted vegetable

chicken liver pate
pickled ramp spinach & beignet

canard au cidre
puff pastry candy strip beet pork belly

apple braised roast pork cassoulet
flageolet bean duck toulouse sausage

stewed fruit & sweet rice
calvados pate brisee cinnamon

Virtue’s Featured Ciders:

Lapinette: a Norman-style cidre brut, aged in French oak barrels. Reminiscent of the old days in France, before the great wars, when wine makers of the south shared their used barrels with their northern cousins, the resulting ciders were a little bit rough, unfiltered with a balance of flavors from the fruit, the farm and the barrel. Virtue has recreated this traditional cider by sourcing tart fruit, patiently aging for months in wine barrels, and serving as is, without fine filtration. Lapinette is a window into our past, a very tasty time indeed.

RedStreak: a proper English style draft cider. With its hazy lemon hue, scent of ripe apples and just a touch of oak, this cider has a crisp, tart finish that pairs perfectly with your favorite mature cheddar. First discovered in Herefordshire in the 1630s, the Redstreak bittersharp apple produced a cider so delicious it was deemed to be ‘fit for kings.’ Whether paired or on its own, RedStreak Cider is your next drink.

The Mitten is a winter cider -- a blend of last season’s best, aged in bourbon barrels, and fresh pressed apple juice from the new harvest. Straight cider, aged for nine months, finds notes of vanilla, caramel and charred American oak, balanced with their sweet, tart, earthy juice. Many barrels are filled, but only a small portion, the very smoothest, will find their way into The Mitten. We love the wintertime, especially when we have The Mitten to keep us warm and happy through the long, cold night.

Salt of the Earth- rustic American eatery and bakery is located in a historic building in downtown Fennville, in the heart of southwest Michigan farm and orchard country. A meal at the restaurant is an authentic Midwest American rustic food experience, built from a foundation of fresh high quality seasonal ingredients from growers within a fifty-mile radius of Allegan County. Under the direction of rising star Chef Matthew Pietsch, the SotE kitchen cooks from scratch to create dinner entrees, wood oven fired pizzas, creative soups, fresh salads, desserts, and artisan breads.

A full-service bar proudly serves Michigan craft beers, hard ciders, spirits, and wines alongside other domestic and international products. Salt of the Earth is also a popular entertainment destination presenting the finest roots musicians on the scene at weekly house concerts.

Expect a high quality destination dining experience in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. Please call 269.561.7258 or visit for menus, current hours of operation, house concert, and event schedules.

10 Regional Chefs Featured at CRUSH Fundraiser (Saturday, March 9 at Reserve Wine & Food - Benefitting Children's Leukemia Foundation)

The Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan will host CRUSH Grand Rapids Wine and Food Classic, its first West Michigan fundraiser, on Saturday, March 9 at Reserve Wine & Food in downtown Grand Rapids. The event, which is made possible by Dick and Betsy DeVos, will feature nine culinary masters from leading Chicago, West and Northern Michigan restaurants and honorary winemakers Celani Family Vineyards who will create an elegant and extraordinary evening for guests.

CRUSH Grand Rapids begins with a private patron reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by wine-food pairing stations and dessert. The event concludes at 10 p.m. after the awards ceremony, which will honor Dr. James B. Fahner, the director of pediatric hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with its 2013 Pioneers in Medicine Award, and Varnum LLP with its Corporate Leadership Award.

“For the past 60 years, CLF has worked to serve the practical and emotional needs of West Michigan families as they navigate their cancer journey – from diagnosis through treatment and beyond,” said William Seklar, president and CEO. “Our new office underscores the commitment of CLF to have a stronger presence in West Michigan to support our works with nearly 800 families in the region.

“We are also very excited to host our first CRUSH event in Grand Rapids. Since the series was launched in 2008, CRUSH has focused on creating world-class regional fundraising events that benefit CLF. CRUSH Grand Rapids joins very successful annual events in Birmingham and Northern Michigan that will showcase some of the leading chefs and sommeliers across Michigan. All funds raised at CRUSH Grand Rapids will stay in West Michigan to benefit patients and their families.”

CRUSH Grand Rapids joins the CLF series featuring world-renowned wine experts and culinary masters who create unparalleled of degustation events for their guests. Culinary masters for the event will include the following executive chefs:

• Paul Virant, Vie and Perennial, Chicago who will serve at the 2013 Honorary Executive Chef and Restaurateur
• Matt Millar, Reserve Wine & Food, who will serve as the 2013 Honorary Culinary Director
• Myles Anton, Trattoria Stella in Traverse City
• Mathew Green, Reserve
• Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux, La Bécasse in Maple City
• Josef Huber, Amway Hotel Corp. in Grand Rapids
• John Korycki, Zazio’s in Kalamazoo
• Colin McPhee, Bar Divani in Grand Rapids
• Matt Peitsch, Salt of the Earth in Fennville
• Joel Wabeke, Trillium Haven in Grand Rapids

Tom and Vicki Celani, proprietors of Celani Family Vineyards in Napa, Calif., will serve as the 2013 Honorary Winemaking Family.

Ron Edwards, a master sommelier, consultant and educator, will serve as the 2013 Honorary Wine Director for CRUSH Grand Rapids. He will be joined by Peter Marantette, a certified sommelier and general manager of Reserve Wine & Food.

The event is sponsored by Celani Family Vineyards, Dom Perignon, Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, Remy Cointreau USA, Reserve Wine & Food, Scott Shuptrine Interiors and Soaring Eagle Casino.

Tickets for CRUSH are $450 for general admission (7pm) or $650 for the private patron reception (6pm). The Cinquieme Sponsor at $2500 includes two patron level tickets and sponsorship privileges which sponsors a CLF family for one year.