We've become used to the pop-up scene as making a space for new chefs trying to make their name before they get to head up their own brick-and-mortar kitchens. But the scene is getting so established, with several venues, ranging from Yemans Street and Revolver in Hamtramck to St. Cece's in Corktown and the weekly POP series above Checker Bar in Detroit, even long established chefs are joining the fun.
The latest is chef Zachary Smith. Smith spent 20 years leading kitchens at premier hotel restaurants in California (San Francisco, Carmel and San Mateo) and Nevada (Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe). About 20 years ago, he came back to his hometown of Detroit to work as head chef at Grosse Pointe's high-end eatery 123. He developed his own line of spices, which are still on the market, and briefly headed up Chef Zachary Café in the Michigan Building on Bagley downtown. But most of the last 15 years have been taken up by his work with such high-end supermarkets as Nino Salvaggio and Westborn as a chef and consultant, as well as raising his son.
These days, his son is taller than he is, and he find himself with the free time to put a hand back in the cooking game. It's something he's used to. Back in the day, his friends would throw him a 20-spot and a bottle of wine and he'd go shopping and cook them a fine meal. Doing a pop-up is just doing it for more people.
The pop-up happens this coming Tuesday, and it will feature a menu of food that draws on his love of soul food growing up in Detroit, made using his special spice blends, with a few skills picked up in his years in hospitality on the West Coast. The menu will include vegetable gumbo, a red and green salad, sautéed shrimp, catfish po'boys, salmon cakes with rice pilaf, twice-spice turkey, and sour cream pound cake. Dishes range from $5 to $12.
The Cajun emphasis will help round out a scene that Smith has a bone or two to pick with. He says, "You either get something that looks elegant, or you get a whole lot of food, or you get something 'healthy,' which looks like crap usually, all kale and carrots. … I like to show people the whole spectrum of the food world: authentic Italian, simple home French cuisines, or simple seafood. I don’t’ want to get stuck on American food that would be too boring for me."
Curious? Want to see Smith strut his stuff? It's all a la carte, and it takes place e5-9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, at St. Cece's, 1426 Bagley Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2121; for more information, see chefzachary.com.