Dining in Detroit. So many restaurants, but where to eat? This year New Center alone will see more openings than all of Detroit in 2009.

That’s not fact. It’s based on subjective experience. We lived through a pre-cocktail time when Cafe d’Mongo was the place to be and the opening of Chef Andy Hollyday’s first venture, Selden Standard was a minor holiday that lasted a week. We’ve been following Chef since his Clandesdine days at Michael Symon’s Roast. Years after opening, his Selden is still our go-to. Congrats to Team Selden on their upcoming venture in New Center! 

And we thought 2009 was a good year. 

It’s a small town—with a changing landscape, friends, and one we aren’t afraid to admit that we need help navigating.

In this four part series we take up the matter of entertaining and delicious with industry experts.

First up, the ultimate dinner host, Julie Egan of Salonniere, a former senior Obama White House official, whose intimate gatherings are known for driving conversation as much as they are the culinary arts.

Her early dinners were borne out of her house in a desire to create a salon culture, often times organized around a single topic of conversation or the works of a particular artist. Past FOMO, you missed the Tyree Guyton dinner.

As Salonniere has grown, its mission to build bridges and foster honest conversation has created powerful allies with organizations such as Soho House, Art Basel and the Detroit Foundation Hotel.

Salonniere

Chef Andrew Carmellini

CV Henriette: What is Salonniere?

Julie Egan: Salonniere is a French word that means “the woman who holds salons.” A Salon is an artful conversational gathering with a purpose, held in an intimate setting over food and drink. We are a conversation and cultural agency inspired by the female-led Salons throughout history, designed by women to influence the cultural and political conversations of their times, such as those held in Harlem, Paris, Berlin, Cairo, Buenos Aires. Salonniere uses this format to introduce inspiring artists, changemakers and innovators to influential local and global audiences to celebrate their work, and help them form new partnerships, projects and collaborations. 

Salonniere’s mission is to reimagine a modern salon movement, in unique intimate spaces – such as the living rooms of global influencers and hidden cultural spaces – partnering with the world’s most provocative culinary, beverage, art, thought leadership and real estate talent, to change the world, one conversation at a time.

CVh: What did you do before Salonniere?

“The tradition of art and culture and food that I experienced in South Africa, as well as different models and approaches to conversation and community, deeply influenced my diplomatic practice throughout my career.”

Salonniere

Warda Patisserie

JE:  Before Salonniere, I was a public servant.  I started working in goverment at the age of 15, working nights and weekends as an intern for a state senator. In college, I worked full-time in the Michigan Legislature.

During that period,  I took some time away and lived in South Africa, in Johannesburg, just after the end of apartheid. This was my first foray into what would become a lifelong career in international relations and diplomacy.

I worked in a township of Johanesburg, Soweto, learning from women who resisted apartheid by creating alternative finance mechanisms, called stokvels.

Stokvel is a name that originates from the term “stock fair,” and comes from the rotating stock auctions used by English settlers in South Africa in the 19th century.  A stokvel is essentially and invitation-only club of 12 or more serving as a credit union or savings club in South Africa, where members contribute fixed amounts of money to a central fund on a regular basis (either weekly, bimonthly or monthly.)

These women in South Africa have been an inspiration to me throughout my career and in launching Salonniere.  They risked everything fighting against apartheid by organizing politically and economically, sometimes costing their lives.  They did this by illegally gathering as a form of protest and to feed their families.  They gathered in traditionally “female” spaces – those related to food and hospitality, like the female Salons around the world—including in the back rooms of “shebeens,” or illegal, speakeasies in Soweto.

It was against the law in South Africa during apartheid for Blacks to gather or drink in public spaces.  The tradition of art and culture and food that I experienced in South Africa, as well as different models and approaches to conversation and community, deeply influenced my diplomatic practice throughout my career. And stokvels were my original inspiration for Salonniere.  Over time, I intend include a “Stokvel” element into Salonniere, regular gatherings of women to form savings/investor clubs to fund ventures started by women, artists and people of color.

“There is a “conversation crisis” in this country—we do not hear, see, or listen to one another.  We lack empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.”

On September 11, 2001 was a student in Paris studying Arabic and Islam.  It was a moment that profoundly changed my life—when I decided to join the Foreign Service, because I realized, as a student of both the Middle East and of Islam, that our country’s relationship with and understanding of the Muslim world was broken.  I wanted to do my part in service of restoring that conversation.
During the early days of the Obama Administration at the State Department, I was part of a small group of advisers that were sent on “listening tours” overseas, including to North Africa and other parts of the “Muslim world” to listen to people of all walks of life share what was broken about U.S. engagement with the world, and their ideas on how the US could do better.  By that time, I had become an expert on North Africa, having had the good fortune to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship that allowed me conduct long periods of time living in and researching Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania.
I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the team that created President Obama’s global entrepreneurship diplomacy initiatives, including the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (now in its 9th iteration, in The Netherlands in 2019, we organized a Detroit Stories Panel at the 2016 GES in Silicon alley), and to author and execute the first US regional foreign policy in North Africa to include both the public and private sectors: entrepreneurs, business leaders, youth and government leaders. This foreign policy launched two weeks before the first uprisings in Tunisia.
During that time I had the good fortune of being able to involve various groups from Detroit in our initiatives in North Africa, such as TechTown, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Wayne State, Detroit Soup and others. I worked with then DC3 President Matthew Clayson to apply for and obtain Detroit’s designation as a UNESCO City of Design.  I later joined the Obama White House and served on both the National Economic Council and as part of President Obama’s pioneering Detroit Federal Working Group, where I handled both international affairs and cultural affairs as part of that team in Detroit.
My career in public service and diplomacy inspired Salonniere, as I believe that we have in many ways lost our ability to serve one another effectively.  There is a “conversation crisis” in this country—we do not hear, see, or listen to one another.  We lack empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.  We need to do better at sitting across from our neighbor and having meaningful, at times tough, conversations.
Salonniere

Warda Patisserie

CVh: How did you get into food?

JE: I got into food for its ability to build bridges and break down barriers.  Food is the soul of a people. It unites us. For me it has always been a way to understand a culture, a place, a people.  It is a way to build emotional ties and emotional connection, and it was an important part of my diplomatic practice.  It was a way to reclaim the power of a particularly female space, a space commanded by mothers and grandmothers, who exerted total control over these spaces and used them to build family and community, and to welcome visitors.  I am the granddaughter of farmers in Canada and entrepreneurs in Detroit.  For both, important conversations took place at the table over a shared meal.  

“Later, in my career at the State Department, I used food—including some of my grandmother’s recipes—in dinner salons overseas and in New York to build bridges with people from around the world over a shared meal.”
My family has owned a farm in Canada since 1800s.  It has been passed on to the fifth child of every generation through today.  My grandfather was the second oldest in the family, so the farm went to his brother, and he founded his own farm down the road from the family homestead. 
I grew up spending summers and holidays with my grandparents on that farm, and most of our family meals came from the bounty of my grandparents’ land in the form of canned goods, frozen vegetables and fresh meats.  My grandmother was an incredible cook, hostess, gardner, farmer, and partner to my grandfather.  My grandfather named his farm VI Hartman Farms (Victor and Irene Hartman Farms), a progressive approach to gender relations at the time.  My grandmother had eight children and cooked every day for dozens of men working in their fields.  She tended to a vegetable garden that was easily a city block large, and canned and preserved the plenty of that garden every year.  
My grandmother taught me how to cook, bake, can, and preserve—skills that I am proud today to have as a woman as they are a slowly dying tradition.  Most of all, my grandmother taught me the value of food as community.  She taught me how food can bring people together around a table to nourish, to laugh, to heal, to share in the business of farming, to share in the values of family, to share in the celebrations of life. 
This led me to find joy in cooking, hosting, and entertaining from a young age.  Many of my friends from middle school and high school remember the elaborate Christmas parties I would host every year as a way of bringing people together to celebrate over food and drink.  Later, in my career at the State Department, I used food—including some of my grandmother’s recipes—in dinner salons overseas and in New York to build bridges with people from around the world over a shared meal.  Even if we couldn’t agree on politics, a specific point of a negotiation, or the views of our respective governments, we could always agree on the importance of sharing our cultural backgrounds and common humanity through conversation and a dish handed down with love by our mothers and grandmothers.
Food takes us on a cultural journey, and is a shared human necessity. Sharing a meal sometimes allows us to gather people together who would not otherwise meet or speak, while encountering a place or culture they might not otherwise ever engage.  How food is prepared and how food is used to represent tradition, or to celebrate life, differ from one culture to another— and tell us a rich cultural story.  The simple act of sitting around a table to share food creates an intimacy and an experience that puts us in contact with other places, times, and ways of living.  It creates a bond, without words, that in the best circumstances, leads to words, conversations, and spaces that are more curious and open-minded.
This is why Salonniere puts food (as well as art) at the center of our mission to curate candid conversations at a time in this country when conversation with others could not be more important. Food is the soul of a people, and the great unifier.
“In general, Detroit is charting its own path on food, and many of our cooks, chefs and restaurant owners are part of that conversation.”
CVh: Favorite part of the Detroit Restaurant Scene?
JE: My favorite part of the Detroit restaurant scene is what happens behind the scenes.  For example, the intentional way that many chefs source food.  The camaraderie, loyalty, and support in general shared among members of the food ecosystem in Detroit. The leadership that Detroit is showing in redefining and recreating food distributions systems to fight longstanding racial and socio-economic inequities. The thought leadership that is being shown on questions of food justice.
The leadership that is being shown in our urban farming community is redefining the future of food and what it means to be a farmer.
The pride of restaurateurs in creating welcoming spaces with real attention to detail has been an source of inspiration for my work here.
I’ve learned so much from one of my closest friends, Dennis Archer, Jr., who has invested incredible time and sweat equity advising on Salonniere. He’s taught me most of what I know as it relates to the business of hospitality and how to execute against high levels and expectations of customer service. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him personally pick up misplaced items from the floor, or greet customers by recalling details of something important to them, making them feel valued. Small businesses and restaurants in Detroit take deep personal pride and that makes all the difference. In general, Detroit is charting its own path on food, and many of our cooks, chefs and restaurant owners are part of that conversation. Salonniere has been really fortunate to help lift up some of the stories of these cooks, chefs, food entrepreneurs, farmers and food justice activists, and we look forward to continuing to do that in the future.
Salonniere

Lady of the House

CVh: What’s the scene missing?
JE: We need more diversity in our restaurant scene.  More female chefs and people of color.  We need more diversity in terms of restaurants highlighting the global diversity of our Detroit population, which is build on strong immigrant populations.
In addition, there are important conversations that should be had about what is happening behind the scenes. Detroit has a serious shortage of restaurant workers and access to training in hospitality.
This is an important future of work and workforce development issue in Detroit’s food and restaurant scene and it is not being adequately addressed. There needs to be more access to training for young people, including young girls and young women, to develop professional careers in hospitality, which historically has been a strong and admired profession.  We need to celebrate the work of food and of hospitality for our young people, and encourage training programs that allow them to make professional, long-term careers in this industry in Detroit. Salonniere is teaming up with various partners to bring people around the table to celebrate the diversity of world culinary traditions and food rituals, including from our Detroit mothers and grandmothers, and from women and families around the world. Stay tuned!
Salonniere

Chef Kate Williams

CVh: What to expect from Salonniere in 2019?

JE: In fall 2018, we launched a Global Salon Series in partnership with the Detroit Foundation Hotel and Chef Tom Lents, which in 2019 will bring global flavors and conversations to Detroit via leading global chefs, sommeliers, food and beverage innovators, artists (including female hip hop artists!) and entrepreneurs who want to collaborate and co-create with Detroiters. We launched an exciting project with The Financial Times (more to come on this in 2019!) and are kicking off a 5-city 6-dinner Salon Conversation Series on the margins of 3 major global art events focused on a local Detroit artist to raise awareness, support and partnership for his work. We launched an exciting collaboration with Chef Andrew Carmellini and NoHo Hospitality Group in 2018. Finally, we launched our Podcast and began working on a project – the Detroit Artist Inclusion Project – focused on increasing the inclusion of local artists in local real estate projects, both of which we intend to roll-out in 2019. For interest in our Salons, which are by invitation only to ensure a wide range and diversity of voices at our table, please drop us a note regarding membership at www.salonniere.co

Salonniere’s Favorite Restaurants/Menu Items:

10. Al Ameer

Favorite Middle Eastern restaurant outside the Middle East. Favorite meal: Shish Tawouk and Arabic coffee.

9. Warda Patisserie

Best tarts in Detroit. Warda’s pastries are based on her travels and previous life in North Africa, France and Southeast Asia. I have also lived for significant periods of my life in France and North Africa, and Salonniere works with artists and have featured cultural and culinary traditions from France and North Africa: Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania. Our favorite tart: an original creation for Salonniere called the “Shiraz Tart” with Lychee custard, Rose mousse and white chocolate glaze. We consider all of Warda’s pastries a work of art.

8. Buddy’s (original location)

Best pizza in the world!

7. Yum Village (soon to be in the North End)

We love everything about YumVillage, including Chef Godwin Ihentuge’s focus on combining family roots (African/Caribbean) and life experiences. We love.the rice and beans, plantains and jerk chicken. so good they make us cry each time! We also love that they intend to deliver and intend to crowd-source 20% of the menu using #VoteYumVillage

6. Cutters

Turkey burger.

5. Sweetwater Tavern

Wings!

4. The Clique Restaurant

Number one breakfast spot—especially the scrambles and pancakes!

3. San Morello

From the Pewabic tile, the open kitchen, the lighting, to bistro vibe and the play on words focused on Michigan cherries (Morello), we love everything about the attention to detail by Chef Carmellini—especially the friendly professional staff and the folks who run a tip-top show behind the scenes. And Chef Carmellini has created an all-star Italian menu that keeps us coming back multiple times a week. You will find us there for breakfast meetings eating Eggs al Forno, for dinner for the Spaghetti alla Ricci and Chef Carmellini’s Grandma’s ravioli, and for a Martinez at Evening Bar. Oh, and our favorite dessert of 2018 was “Sweet Chocolate Chaos,” a dessert co-created by Chef Carmellini and Detroit artist John Dunivant inspired by and served by performers from Theatre Bizarre as part of a Salonniere Art-to-Table Salon—Chef Carmellini’s his first-ever dinner in Detroit! Such a class act to prioritize a collaboration with a local Detroit artist as first order of business!

2. Lady of the House

We love Lady of the House because it reflects Chef Kate’s focus on culinary artistry with a purpose. Everything about Lady has intention: from the no-waste nose-to-tail butchering, to the ingredients sourced from local farmers, to the Detroiters represented in the beauty of the interior, to Chef Kate’s grandmother’s tea cups used for tea service, to the tampons available in the women’s bathroom. You can find us at the bar drinking our favorite martini in the world: The Lady of the House martini and eating everything on the menu, starting with the oysters.

1. Central Kitchen + Bar

Our home-away-from home. We are in the business of food x art x conversation. So our favorite places are inclusive, foster conversation and serve interesting and approachable dishes that make you feel good. Central is cozy, welcoming, and diverse. You can find people from all walks of life enjoying good company and conversation at all times of the day and evening, which we love. Favorite dish: Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich and fries (best fries in Detroit). Favorite drink: Five Boroughs.

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