Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's July 2021 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Name: Becky Tranchell
Restaurant: Rose and Fern
Hometown: Owosso, Mich.
Cuisine: I designed this menu to please my mid-Michigan meat-eating father as well as my vegan brother. We want to have classic things that are familiar for those who are maybe less adventurous or open to less different designs of food. But then, we have stuff like tofu scrambles. The idea is to bring in all different types of people.
Position: Cook, Business Owner
Why Becky prefers “cook” over “chef:” I’m not comfortable being called a chef, personally. That’s something that I think comes with a lot more time, a lot more experience, and a lot more exposure to different types of cuisines.
Experience: Great Lakes Culinary Institute (attendee and, later, instructor), working under Alice Waters at Café Fanny, private chef, executive chef at Om Café, Little Fleet food truck co-owner, 2.5 years as business owner of Rose and Fern
Cooking Background: As a young adult, I decided to be vegetarian when I was 15 years old. My parents were like, “well, you’re cooking for yourself now.” I grew up in a household that was, like, microwaved Salisbury steaks or Hamburger Helper. When I decided to eat [vegetarian], my parents were like, “you’ve got to figure it out on your own” — which is awesome, because then I got to learn to cook at such a young age.
Goal of Rose and Fern: Restaurants are one of the last places where you get a vast group of humans into one space, all sitting down and sharing something or enjoying something. If you think about back in the 1800s, restaurants and coffee shops — those were political meccas where people would go and have conversations. My menu is designed to bring in all different kinds of demographics to share a space.
Local Partnerships: Our focus is on bringing in the wonderful bounty that’s already here in Traverse City. There are so many great places that are making their craft, and we want to bring in what they’re doing. We’re hyper-local.
All our produce comes from Lakeview Hills Farm, our meat comes from Louie’s Meats, and all our bread comes from either Bubbie’s Bagels or Common Good Bakery. Even our coffee is local; we roast coffee in-house.
Local Partnerships and Local Support: Our step one is bringing in the best of local produce, food, and products around the area.
From there, we’re all about the people. We’re all about trying to make sure that we’re doing our part for a better world, for equality, and for racial equality. We’re a Business Champion with Norte, we do things with Up North Pride, and we’ve donated over $3,000 this last year to Black Lives Matter.
Inspiration (and Caution!): I am the result of Food Network, Rachael Ray, and Paula Deen — but, the thing is, we’ve got to stop glamorizing this industry. The reason I went into cooking is because of a glamorized Food Network TV show that made it all look cool — the cool equipment and the cool aprons.
Changing the Service Industry for the Better: I was kind of battered through my experience in my early ages in the industry. I was taken advantage of, I was paid very little money, and there wasn’t any work-life balance.
I’m so new to being a business owner that I know so thoroughly what my staff goes through. My way of finding the right humans is finding out what’s ideal for their lifestyle and plugging it into the appropriate areas. When I hire someone, I don’t say “this is what I need;” I say, “what do you need? What’s your lifestyle?”
Everything [in the restaurant industry] needs to change. If we go back to indoor dining, there needs to be a service fee. The cost of a burrito covers food costs and that labor of prepping that burrito, but it would never cover the cost of a server to greet you, to bring you water, to bring you coffee, to bring you food, and to clean up your table.
Servers can’t work for $3 an hour plus tips. It’s not sustainable, it’s disrespectful, it’s abusive, and it makes them work for a gratuity that customers feel like they have to “earn.” That’s a nasty environment. I really hope that business owners step up to the plate and start valuing the people inside of their doors.