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Cuisine Makes Us Say Ooh La La in the New Center

With all the new fancy restaurants opening around town lately, it's only natural that we tend to forget about our old favorites. But there are some so outstanding that they have withstood the test of time. They don't require all the pomp and circumstance of their newly opened counterparts; their chefs are brilliant and wholly dedicated, so even in the direst times customers remain loyal.

Once such restaurant is Cuisine, New Center's 8-year-old flagship four-star restaurant inhabiting an old mansion, decorated in a cheerful palette of yellows and blues. It boasts a fresh, unpretentious, urban chic feel with French-inspired regional American dishes. Cuisine will be one of the 17 Detroit restaurants taking part in the first ever Detroit Restaurant Week later this month.

Cuisine is the end result of Chef Paul Grosz's lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant.

"When the opportunity came, I never second-guessed it," Grosz tells me. But why Detroit? Grosz answered very simply: "I felt like Detroit needed a place with a sophisticated food mentality."

Grosz hails originally from Warren, but spent some time in Chicago, as well as several years cooking in France where he studied at the creme de la creme of culinary arts institutions, the famed Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

"I wanted to learn pastries," he says matter-of-factly. "So many chefs don't know pastries."

Grosz was 21 when he decided he wanted to go to Paris, a shocking move for someone who had been shy his whole life. "I would knock on people's doors and ask to work for them," which the chefs with their formidable egos ate right up (so to speak). "I worked for free in kitchens under many great chefs. Each chef has his own personality and way of doing things, and I learned many different styles of French cooking."

But Grosz was certainly no novice barging into the kitchens of such French culinary greats as Pierre Orsi and Paul Bocuse; prior to Paris he had studied under the legendary Jean Banchet at Le Francais in Illinois. "It was very unique for me to come straight out of high school and work at the places I did," he explains. He had been in kitchens since he was 9 years old (cleaning floors in a doughnut shop); for him, cooking was always something that came easily. After just two days at Le Cordon Bleu, he was bumped to the next level of training; his instructors could already see his knowledge and skill were far superior to those of the average "beginner."

Reflections of the chef

Stepping into Cuisine you are instantly enveloped in a welcoming warmth. The cheerful decor, the gracious service, the casual vibe is all Grosz. "This restaurant is a direct reflection of my personality," Grosz says. "From the colors on the walls to the items on the menu, it's all me. The food on the menu is food I like to eat; it's all a translation of my thoughts into reality. Not many people have that opportunity."

Cuisine is the manifestation of Grosz's passion: this is a man who loves and reveres what he does, and his restaurant is his shrine. The simplicity of the decor is echoed in the deceptively simple menu. "I focus on clean, fresh flavors and I like to keep it simple. Nothing is overdone or overworked. Nothing is stacked up two feet -- that's not me."

Which isn't to say that the dishes he creates are in any way boring. A beef short rib dish (part of Cuisine's Detroit Restaurant Week menu) is served with a puree of carrot and pear and a saute of wax beans. Simple, yes, but the flavor is anything but: a tart, sweet, summery contrast to the rich, tender beef, flecked with the wild card spiciness of the wax beans. At its heart, it is a simple meat-and-vegetable dish, but when compared to such comfort food classics as meatloaf and corn it is not even in the same culinary dimension.

"After so much time in kitchens I have a whole encyclopedia of flavors in my head. I try to come up with combinations of flavors that haven't been seen or tasted before; I can taste them in my head when I envision them," Grosz says.

When I ask him if he's just constantly thinking up new creations in his head, he confides that the whole time we had been talking he was thinking of a new recipe for rack of lamb. "That's why I play hockey," he says. "For two hours your mind is forced to take a break."

The cuisine at Cuisine reflects Grosz's devotion to simplicity, and his adept skill for creating daring, bold flavors from simple ingredients. The menu changes regularly, designed around the seasonality of the produce, the grains and the proteins, be it rack of lamb or Cornish game hen.

After 10 years as the executive chef at the Whitney and another 8 years at Cuisine, Grosz has seen a lot of changes in the city. "Detroit is the best it's been in 30 years," he says. But isn't the market getting oversaturated? "It's true that only the strong will survive, but we support each other as much as possible. Events like Detroit Restaurant Week are great because it means we're finally catching up to everyone else. Detroit needs something like this."

"I'm doing my part in supporting the city just by owning this business," he continues. "It isn't always easy. But I love what I do. The chef part is the easy part."



You can see Cuisine Chef Paul Grosz at work at 10 a.m. Sept. 26 inside Eastern Market Shed 2, where he will be performing a cooking demonstration as part of the Taste of Eastern Market program, which runs through October. Detroit Restaurant Week restaurants will be featured in September.

Detroit Restaurant Week is Sept. 18-27; Cuisine is one of the 17 participating restaurants. For more information about Cuisine, read Nicole Rupersburg's full preview of the Restaurant Week menu at her blog.

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Photos:

Chef Paul Grosz's adding the finishing touches

Front entrance

Chef Paul Grosz's

Foyer

Prosciutto Sald

Photographs by Detroit Photographer Marvin Shaouni Marvin Shaouni is the Managing Photographer for Metromode & Model D Contact Marvin here

Read more articles by Nicole Rupersburg.

Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.
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