Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Summer I 2019 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: Randy Minish
POSITION: Chef-Owner at Terrain, a Bellaire restaurant and bar serving “honest yet ambitious” contemporary American food with a focus toward local ingredients and flavors
BORN IN: Ortonville; moved to Bellaire at age 5
LIVES IN: Bellaire
TRAINING: Great Lakes Culinary Institute, 2011 graduate
WHY I BECAME A CHEF: For me it was just I’d had some good food growing up. My mother ... cared about what we ate. Then it was getting in restaurants and eating stuff I never ate before and meeting people who were passionate about food.
EXPERIENCE: I started at 16 at Schuss Shanty Creek, as a dishwasher. Then I went to Lulu’s until 2009. That was the restaurant space I now occupy. During most of culinary school I worked at Moka, a Bellaire coffee and bakery shop. When I graduated, I went down to Roast steakhouse in Detroit. It was owned by (restaurateur and host of ABC’s “The Chew”) Michael Symon. I worked there a year and a half, then went to San Francisco. Then I came back to Detroit and worked at an Asian restaurant by the Ambassador Bridge with some Roast folks. And then I moved back to Bellaire. I was kind of burned out in Detroit. A chef I knew was just opening up Smoke and Porter in Traverse City and I became sous chef there until 2017. Then I was a bread baker at Pleasonton Bakery at The Village At Grand Traverse Commons. Around that time Lulu’s was for sale. It took a year to get it off the ground.
FAVORITE DISHES TO MAKE: I really like making pasta. Right now we do two pastas: pesto pasta with roasted garlic, lemon, tomatoes and spaghetti; and lamb shank ragu. I also like cream of wild leek or ramp soup. I like the ramp soup because it sums up what we’re trying to do. We use sumac as the spice for crouton for the soup. Puffed wild rice is interesting, too, as a garnish on the ramp soup. You have these Great Lakes ingredients. We are trying to be ambitious about our cooking but try and focus on flavors and ingredients that are indicative to the Great Lakes region. I want people to feel like it’s a restaurant that could only exist in this place.
BIGGEST INFLUENCE: I’ve cooked with a lot of people, including Michael Symon and Michael Peters, but my biggest influences are two local chefs, Clif Wilson and Kathy Peterson, of Moka. Clif Wilson has worked for Michael Peters at Siren Hall for years. I met him at Lulu’s and I met Kathy at Moka. They taught me my work ethic and putting flavors together. They’re both very passionate about what they do. They, especially Clif, opened my eyes to cooking. He taught me how to make ice cream.
BEST PROFESSIONAL MEMORY: Signing the lease on my own restaurant in my hometown.
WORST PROFESSIONAL MEMORY: I was working at Roast. I was at the grill station and we had this big private party. I was supposed to grill 50 ribeyes and I put down 50 NY steaks. The difference was a big chunk of change.
MOST IMPORTANT THING I’VE LEARNED: The most important thing to keep in mind with cooking is you’re always working with the accumulated experiences of other people. Most of the things we do in the kitchen were probably invented by women, mothers in particular, women feeding their families. And you can’t really understand food if you’re not a cosmopolitist. If you really want to be a good cook you have to take the experiences of a very diverse group of people and (absorb) the history of cooking and the history of ingredients. It’s all been done before.