2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Nick Janutol of Forest Grill

2016 Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Nick Janutol of Forest Grill
November 2016

Michigan native Nick Janutol got his first taste of cooking while he was still a student at Grosse Point North High School. It was basic stuff—burgers, roast chicken, and soup—but he found unexpected gratification in the alchemy and process of turning ingredients into a meal. Janutol didn’t run off to culinary school immediately, though. First he did a year’s stint at Wayne State University before boredom drove him to Montclair, New Jersey, and work in his uncle’s Italian restaurant. After one more year at Wayne State, literally giving it “the old college try,” Janutol knew he wouldn’t be satisfied outside of the kitchen and headed to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
 
After graduating with an associate degree, he landed in the extraordinary culinary training ground otherwise known as Eleven Madison Park in New York City. After two years, Janutol was ready for a move, but Detroit wasn’t yet in his sights. Instead he spent time in some of Chicago’s great kitchens, including Ria, Balsan, and L2O.
 
In 2015, with some seriously prestigious training under his belt, Janutol moved back to Detroit, where Brian Polcyn plucked him up to open Forest Grill in nearby Birmingham. Janutol has since picked up a nomination for James Beard’s 2016 “Best Chef, Great Lakes” with cooking that’s as meticulous as it is approachable and true to the city. 



Interview with Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Nick Janutol of Forest Grill

Sean Kenniff: Where are you from; how’d you get your start? 
Nick Janutol:
I’m from Grosse Pointe. I went to the CIA—I was a line cook at Rugby Grill as an extern—and then worked at Eleven Madison Park. I spent two years there, and my last day was the day the 4-star review in The New York Times came out.

SK: Who's your mentor?
NJ:
Definitely Matt Kirkley, he opened my eyes to the technical side of food at L20 in Chicago.

SK: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
NJ:
The balancing act of making customers happy, giving them what they want, and also being able to teach my staff new techniques and keep them wanting to work here.

SK: What's your five year plan?
NJ:
I’ve been here three and a half years and started under the old owner. Sammy [Eid], the new owner, bought it contingent on me staying on. Sammy is awesome. I’ve worked for Danny Meyer and Rich Melman—Sammy is on that level. He’s only 34 years old, and has been in the industry his whole life. He understands business and hospitality. He calls me his partner, which is nice. Eventually we will build a restaurant group that we’re proud of. We’re committed to it being here.