He’s a chef who has been making waves in Northern Michigan, with customers raving about the quality and sheer deliciousness of his cuisine. When he released a few limited spots for Traverse City’s February Restaurant Week, they were sold out within a day. We could be writing about none other than Forrest, a Food Studio & Private Chef, who, along with his wife Nicole, brings a new way to dine to our area. Gather Michigan was not only able to have an exclusive interview with the famous chef, but score a coveted spot for their restaurant week event. The menu options included empanadas, chai-spiced cake, dark chocolate churros with an outrageous icing, and more. After the conclusion of a successful first restaurant week, Forrest graciously provided us with insight into his studio and his experiences as a standout chef.
What inspired your menu for restaurant week?
I grew up in southern California where authentic Mexican cuisine was prevalent. For our first participation in TC Restaurant Week, I wanted to feature some of my favorite Latin flavors I recall from my childhood.
How has the business been during your first year in Traverse City?
Amazing! It’s been great having new diners experience our Food Studio, as well as some of our private chef clients coming into our new space to enjoy the communal dining experience.
Do you have repeat customers and class attendees?
Yes, we have several repeat private chef clients, as well as repeat guests to our Food Studio. Especially during restaurant week! Most of the people who were able to snag our Restaurant Week reservations were people that have been following our journey on social media. As soon as we announced on social media that our reservations for Restaurant Week were available online, they sold out in about 24 hours!
What’s been your favorite part of your new business venture?
The ever-changing menus and cooking classes we’re creating for our guests. Since our menus change monthly and we offer a variety of experiences at the Food Studio, and continue to travel offsite to cook for people in their homes or vacation rentals, we never get the sense of “groundhog’s day.”
There’s also a great sense of pride in our day-to-day work at the Food Studio since we remodeled the space with our own bare hands, which took about 3 months of very labor-intensive work. And, best of all, as a married couple, we get to spend all our time together! When my wife worked in the corporate health and wellness industry and I was working long hours (nights and weekends) in fine dining restaurants, we barely got to see each other because we had polar opposite work schedules. Now that we run this business just the two of us together, it’s the best of both worlds. We get to work in a profession that we’re very passionate about (food!) and spend time together building and running our business.
How does having your wife as part of your team inspire you?
We’re both like-minded people. The business isn’t just me as a chef, it’s about us as a team, operating a successful food business. There isn’t a day that goes by that we both can’t say, “We did it!”. When there are only two people tackling a lot of tasks daily, we keep each other motivated and constantly tell each other, “Good job!” I couldn’t ask for a better partner, best friend, and wife to run it together.
How often do you tend to cater events and how many can you cater for?
We generally service 3-4 events per week, depending on the size of the events. At the Food Studio, we like to keep our cooking classes and Demo & Dine events to small numbers so everyone can have the sense that they’re sitting at the chef’s table and can interact with the cooking process as much as they’d like. For offsite private chef events, we cook for parties anywhere from 2-40 guests!
What are some upcoming special events?
For the first time at the Food Studio, we’re offering Sunday Brunch in March, 3 courses for $35. We’re also having a pizza party pop-up on Friday, March 27th, which is a family-friendly event where children shorter than Nicole (hint: she’s 5’2”) eat for free! It’s all you can eat, create-your-own pizza. Participants fill out an ingredient card with up to 6 pizza toppings and get their own personal pizza as well as plenty of healthy salads and desserts to go around! Additionally, on Friday, May 1st we’re hosting a benefit dinner for Stand Up for Great Lakes. See our Events Calendar or Experiences tab on our website to find out more details about this unique duo of land and lakes themed menu!
Snag your spot for any of Forrest and Nicole’s amazing offers through their website. Please note that they are a reservation-only establishment for their food events. “Reservations are made in advance through our website, and we make several announcements about upcoming events on our social media, so it’s great for people to follow us along there,” Forrest advises. “We offer communal dining and we have a liquor license with a select menu of wine, beer, and a few seasonal cocktails. These alcoholic beverages are available for additional purchase.” Find out what everyone has been raving about by signing up for a Demo & Dine, a cooking class, pizza party, or whatever sounds yummy to you! The list is endless!