GRCC In the News, 11-7-16

Pushing us past the ordinary: Five chefs who are changing the way we eat in Grand Rapids

Nov. 3, 2016;

The culinary landscape of Grand Rapids is in a state of evolution. As the city grows and changes, so does the way residents interact with food and drink. Gone are the days when mom and pop headed out every Friday evening to the same restaurant for the same meal. Predictability in cuisine is dead, and a night on the town has become a self-directed research project (and a fun one at that). Half the enjoyment of a Friday evening in West Michigan is preparing for it; the dining experience is now a culinary experiment in the eyes of many. What new dish, new cocktail, new dessert is going to blow my mind? What am I going to discover tonight that’s different and innovative?

… While Sovengard is the chef’s landing pad, his (Patrick Conrade) culinary experiences span the city. He attended Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education later in life and decided that he needed some hands-on experience fast. He began at Gibson’s Steakhouse and then worked at the University Club as the executive chef; this is where he built a foundation of knowledge. That came in handy at his next position as head chef at the Meyer May House, the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Heritage Hill that was restored by Steelcase. There, in the space where Steelcase frequently gathers clients and other business and community leaders, he dreamed up gourmet meals for smaller groups. “Here I really got to stretch all my talents and explore new food,” says Conrade. “Presentation was everything. My background in sculpture and art came to life inside the kitchen.” After the Meyer May House, Conrade worked at the Electric Cheetah in Eastown and eventually assisted with the opening of The Old Goat in Alger Heights. “That was my first opening from the ground up,” says Conrade. “All of these different experiences shaped me and eventually led me to The Sovengard.”

(This article also profiles former GRCC student Cory Davis and SICE alumnus James Ewigleben.)

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