Interview with Rust Belt Rising Star Chef Brad Greenhill of Katoi

by Sean Kenniff
December 2016

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start? 
Brad Greenhill:
I was born in Cleveland and raised in Columbus, where I was a porter in a deli, and later a line cook. In college, I was a line cook at an Italian place in Ann Arbor—that was transformative, I left as sous chef. I moved to Boston when Chef Michael Bernardino called me up to help run a 26-seat restaurant out there—Carmen’s. That’s when I made the jump to taking it seriously. 

I got big into doing pop-ups and learning on my own. The pop-ups were anywhere: my house, backyard, in an Ann Arbor bakery that wasn’t open at night. Then I moved to Detroit and did pop-ups everywhere. 

SK: Who's your mentor? 
Miles Anton, my chef in Ann Arbor at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community? 
I’ve been in it four years now. It’s great—definitely a lot more of a community than other cities. It might change as more people come in, but in the early days with only a few restaurants, there were a lot of pop-ups and sharing of resources. It’s a Detroit thing, not as competitive, and I’m sure it‘ll change, but I hope it stays this way. On any given night, there will be four other chefs here at Katoi, or at any other restaurant.

SK: What's your biggest challenge at Katoi? 
Doing the same menu for two weeks, because I was so used to doing pop-ups and I like to keep it fresh. Now every week we change out one or two things.

SK: What's your five year plan? 
I’ll have a couple more restaurants open by then. New concepts, not driven by awards or accolades. I’m driven by asking how can we make the most flavorful food. A flavor-first restaurant where we won’t care about plating or foam. That was food’s glam rock phase, just to show off technique. Ask, “Is your strawberry emulsion better than a strawberry?” Probably not.

SK: In your operations or service, what are you doing differently that most you're proud of? 
Quite a few things. We use a mortar and pestle more than anywhere else, probably. It’s an interesting blend of modern and rustic. We cook things over wood in a smoker and we also have a CVap and Vitamix. The CVap is for dehydrating, and finishing things from the smoker, like brisket.