2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef John Vermiglio of Grey Ghost

2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef John Vermiglio of Grey Ghost
November 2016

John Vermiglio is Detroit born, Providence schooled, and Chicago trained. His first restaurant job was in a bagel joint at 14, where he washed dishes instead of rolling dough and baking bagels. Aspiring to a more culinary future, Vermiglio left the Midwest to study at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and graduated with honors.

Next up for Vermiglio were a series of catering jobs, restaurant gigs, and work as a private chef. Then his big chance came through: he accepted a position as head chef of Charlie Trotter catering company, Trotter’s To Go. With his foot in the door, Vermiglio spent two-plus years learning, catering events and private dinners, and eventually working at the group’s two-star Michelin flagship. Moving from one Chicago lion to the next, Vermiglio took on the role of executive sous chef at Art Smith’s Table Fifty-two. He spent four years running the restaurant and overseeing private events and travels for the Art Smith Company before signing on to work at Graham Elliot Bowles’ two-star Michelin Graham Elliot Bistro. 

Reuniting with Trotter alum Matthias Merges, Vermiglio took over as director of culinary operations for Merges’ Folkart Restaurant Management with restaurants A10 Hyde Park, Billy Sunday, Yusho Hyde Park, and Yusho Logan Square. Having ascended the heights of Chicago fine-dining, Vermiglio decided it was time to come home to Detroit. In summer 2016, he opened casual, fun, cocktail-centric Grey Ghost in Brush Park—likely one of many restaurants to come for team Vermiglio in Detroit. 



Interview with Rust Belt Rising Star Chef John Vermiglio of Grey Ghost

SK: Who’s your mentor? 
JV:
Matthias Merges, after 8 years. My time at Charlie Trotter’s was the most valuable time in my career. Chef Matthias was the man behind the man there. He gave me the most intimidating interview. He asked three questions: Why do you want to be here? Do you have a girlfriend? What are you doing today? I sent 14 resumes to try to get in. I’m still reaping the benefits.

SK: When did you make the jump to your own restaurant?
JV:
I was in Chicago for 10 years. I moved back to Detroit in 2015, but I started the process 8 months before I left. I was getting the knowledge and skills necessary to open a restaurant. There’s something to be said for those who are pioneers, but the business man in me says establish the city before we jump in so we can sustain. I hope one day I can open a restaurant with my brother Dave. That’s been part of the plan for a long time .

SK: What’s your five year plan? 
JV:
Hopefully own multiple restaurants and be a staple of the dining scene in Detroit. We want to assimilate into the neighborhood and become a part of the community. We’re not just building  a restaurant, we’re building a community. A guy on the patio said that this is what he’s been waiting for, sitting on the patio with our late night menu: a cheddar corn dog, spicy popcorn, and a beer.

SK: How do you devise your dishes and menus?
JV:
My biggest inspiration comes when I’m most hungry, that’s what drives daily specials or menu planning.

SK: How are you invloved in the community? Are there any charities you work with and support?
JV:
Since moving to Detroit I have struck up a relationship with Crossroads of Michigan, located here in Detroit. Crossroads focuses on care for individuals of Detroit in need of counseling, advocacy, and material assistance. They also turn into a soup kitchen every Sunday, serving a hot meal to all who come. I have had the opportunity to raise funds for this organization through several culinary events; their mission, dedicated staff, and compassion for the people and the city of Detroit, represents the true spirit of the city.