Dining in Detroit. So many restaurants, but where to eat? This year the New Center area alone will see more openings than all of Detroit saw 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 spot is still our go-to. Congrats to Team Selden on their upcoming venture in New Center! High-end Mediterranean. We’re so there.
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 ongoing series we take up the matter of entertaining and delicious tastes with industry experts.
For this round, photographers Michelle Girard, Chris Gerard and Jenna Belevender are three multi-talented and multi-genre photographers that have made a name for themselves in the Detroit food scene. They’ve come to become as well regarded as many of the city’s most notable chefs.
That’s because they’ve risen together with many of them. Their work appearing from Eater Detroit to Marie Claire. Like their chefs and restauranteur clients, they’ve built their careers off years of dedication to craft and community.
Anyone who’s familiar with Instagram culture knows the significant role that photography plays in growing any food business—and that hiring a professional isn’t always in a startup budget. But this trio works with up starts and establishment.
Is there a James Beard Award for Food Photographers? There should be, because they’re like the supporting actors of the food world. Does food even happen if there’s not a photograph to prove it?
It takes a village—and thanks to these three folks, this village is celebrating its place on the international culinary scene.
They’ve been generous to share some of their current favorite spots and photographs with us. A few others, in and around Detroit, not included but worth mentioning and visiting: Supino’s, Voyager, Noble Fish, Bumbo’s and the Evening Bar at Shinola Hotel, who all three applaud for its “surprisingly unpretentious menu items like corn dogs and stuffed fried olives.”
Also, check out our friends Instagram pics of their staycation at the Shinola Hotel. FOMO for days.
CVh: Tell us about life as a food photographer.
M/J/C: We have a lot of leftovers. Seriously, please come to our shoots to help us eat. It’s not as glamorous or as easy as anyone thinks but we do enjoy how involved we get to be in the industry.
CVh: Which came first, photography or food?
M/J/C: We may all admit to eating a full, incredible dinner at Marrow, then hours later really needing McDonald’s ice cream. Food has always come first, but we are no snobs and have our own stories. We all broke into the food scene at different times in our careers. We’re not really sure how.
CVh: How has the restaurant scene evolved since you started covering it?
M/J/C: Looking back ten years, since we all began in some capacity covering food, the biggest change aside from the obvious growth is chefs’ thoughtfulness in every aspect of their projects, whether it be pop-ups or brick and mortar.
CVh: Favorite part of the Detroit Restaurant Scene?
M/J/C: Being able to document the rise of great chefs and bartenders; watching them move up, open their own spots and be internationally recognized for their craft. We’re lucky to be able to work alongside such talented, hardworking, creative people.
CVh: What’s missing from the scene?
M/J/C: Food markets and good casual food. That’s what we love about cities like New York: you’re always steps away from an easy, cheap, delicious bite. We’d love to see smaller neighborhood markets open and have longer hours, since so many downtown food options base their hours on the weekday 9-5 crowd.
CVh: What’s next? Any fun projects or news to share?
M/J/C: When we have downtime, we like taking on creative work with chefs either at pop ups to do stylized shoots where we collect props and conceptualize ideas with them. Michelle is working on more conceptualized food shoots like her artist diet series.
Michele, Chris & Jenna’s Detroit Restaurant Highlights
Your favorite Detroit food, the coney, made extra delicious.
They aren’t vegan, but all Chris, Michele, and Jenna swear the “Big Mock” “is hands down better than a “Big Mac.”
3411 Brush St, Detroit, MI 48201.
Vietnamese food in a revamped Coney Island.
4430 Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209.
Noodles, soups, rice bowls and curries . . .!
2015 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216.
32203 John R Rd, Madison Heights, MI 48071.
Breakfast at its most pleasurable.
10551 E Jefferson Ave, Detroit, MI 48214.
I’m at the Pizza Butt. I’m at the Taco Hell. Coming soon: McDaddy’s.
Popping up all over Detroit.
Thai inspired. Colorful lights. We could eat papaya salad for days. And sometimes do.
2520 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216.
“Butcher shop by day, restaurant by night, where vegetarians feel welcome. Marrow is thoughtful in every aspect. We would live there if we could but the basement is haunted . . .
I highly recommend Marrow,” says Michelle. “Their menu changes often due to availability of ingredients, but the pickled shrimp, seasonal yakitori and noodles & broth are all great.”
8044 Kercheval Ave, Detroit, MI 48214.
Hot dogs paying homage to the first dog who went to space. That also happen to be really, really, really tasty.
2110 Trumbull Ave, Detroit, MI 48216.