The art of comfort food

By: Robin Ruehlen | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 15, 2013

 Chef Jeremy Grandon, of Jeremy Restaurant & Bar in Keego Harbor, drizzles dressing over fried green tomatoes at his Aug. 12 cooking class.

Chef Jeremy Grandon, of Jeremy Restaurant & Bar in Keego Harbor, drizzles dressing over fried green tomatoes at his Aug. 12 cooking class.

Photo by Samantha Sergi

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KEEGO HARBOR — Fine dining, as defined by hard-to-pronounce dishes and exorbitant prices, might be a thing of the past, chef Jeremy Grandon, of Jeremy Restaurant & Bar, said. But excellent food and an appreciation for the art of cooking are not.

People looking to explore that art and learn to make gourmet meals at home are filling up local cooking classes this summer.

Clarice Bolduc, of Oakland Community College, in Farmington said introductory culinary courses, especially those on holiday offerings, entertaining and baking, are “extremely popular” options within OCC’s continuing education program.

“People love the opportunity to do hands-on cooking,” she said.

“When we get our surveys back from students or community members, they are always so pleased with the information they’ve learned, and they usually tell us they want the classes to be longer.”

At his restaurant on Cass Lake Road, Grandon hosts sold-out cooking classes each month to help his patrons explore the art of gourmet cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

“People just don’t have the money to go out and spend $100 a person on dinner on a Tuesday night,” he said.

“They’ll spend $20-$30 a person, maybe. The trends are shifting to comfort food, such as burgers and fried chicken, and menus that are casual, straightforward and more user-friendly. People don’t want to get dressed up. They want to get good food that’s not too expensive.”

The classes, which are held one Monday each month, range in difficulty and cost $75 per person. On Aug. 12, participants experimented with grilled duck with a cherry balsamic glaze; fried green tomato salad with peaches, prosciutto and mozzarella; and for dessert, corn ice cream and lime curd tart with blueberries.

“I try to be a little more creative on the classes — some are more simple to follow along with for a home cook, and others are more intricate, so people can learn what really goes into preparing dishes at a restaurant.”

The summer classes tend to be geared toward grilling, and Grandon also hosts specialty classes for holiday cooking, such as Thanksgiving and Passover.

“In the winter, we tend to do more comfort food. Once, I did a Diner Favorites menu,” he said.

Grandon’s versions of comfort food include buttermilk fried chicken with beet and savoy cabbage slaw, Yukon gold potato salad house chutney and honey mustard, and  the “J” burger, which is a half pound angus burger with aioli, onion marmalade, zap sauce, lettuce and tomato on a potato roll. Among the desserts are a triple chocolate mousse cake, a crème fraiche ice cream tart and strawberry-peach shortcake with cream cheese fluff.

July’s class focused on a grilled vegetable torte, marinated grilled lamb T-bone chops and a banana split ice cream cake for dessert.

Wine or beer is served throughout the class, and participants receive full portions of all dishes and a packet of recipes to take home.

“I try to teach people how to trust their instincts. Most want to get hung up on the specifics of a recipe, but I teach them techniques you can apply to many different things, rather than just following directions,” he said.

“People don’t really understand that common sense goes a long when you’re cooking. They want to know exact cook times and temperatures, but there’s so many variables — the thickness of the pan, the temperature of a burner.”

Grandon recently decided to expand his vegetarian options to accommodate customers who wanted their own variety of meatless comfort food, such as mushroom risotto with truffle oil, and spinach pie with roasted beets, arugula and fennel.

“I actually don’t like eating meat very much. I like it sometimes, but I don’t like eating a 12-ounce steak in one sitting,” he said.

“I like cooking vegetables, and I think that’s where the real skill lies. Anyone can throw a piece of meat on a grill and flip it, but vegetables have all different textures and densities, and you have to know how to cook them.”

Call (248) 681-2124 or visit www.jeremyrestaurantandbar.com for more information on Jeremy Restaurant & Bar, and for more information on OCC, visit https://www.oaklandcc.edu/.

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