At home with chef John Vermiglio

At home with chef John Vermiglio
  1. At home with chef John Vermiglio
    The executive chef of Grey Ghost in downtown Detroit cooks up lamb shanks and…

John Vermiglio’s first cooking memory is not a particularly good one. At the age of 11, while trying to make pasta, he put it in a pot on the stove and then left the house. “As a result, I was banned from cooking for a long time,” the executive chef of Grey Ghost restaurant in downtown Detroit says. “And now I tell my mother jokingly that I got into cooking to spite her.”

While attending Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, Vermiglio worked first at Big Apple Bagels washing dishes and then at Jet’s Pizza doing a little bit of everything. And during that time period, he also watched a lot TV shows on the Food Network. “There was a nine-episode series called “Cooking School Stories” that followed the students at the Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts program in Providence, Rhode Island. I had never seen food in that way before and once I did I thought that’s the art form I want to explore. So after spending my freshman year at MSU to please my parents, I enrolled at Johnson & Wales and received my associate’s degree from there in 2006,” the chef said.

After graduating, Vermiglio moved to Chicago, where he did a couple of internships, including one at a law firm where he said he “explored the world of being a corporate chef. But even though I was making money and having good hours, I realized I didn’t go to culinary school to make sandwiches and fruit trays.” So, after four months at the law firm, he began working as a chef at renowned chef Charlie Trotter’s catering company and artisan grocery store.

Three years later, Vermiglio became the executive sous chef at chef/owner Art Smith’s Table Fifty Two restaurant, also in Chicago, and ended up traveling with Smith to 11 countries on four different continents. “Oprah Winfrey brought us to Johannesburg to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 400 girls at her Oprah Leadership Academy and I also accompanied Smith and Mayor (Richard) Daley to Shanghai where we cooked at the 2010 World Expo,” the 32-year old said. And back in Chicago, Vermiglio also did a TV show on Bravo called “Around The World in 80 Plates, “a combination of Top Chef and Amazing Race where chefs competed in 10 countries in a food-related scavenger hunt and cooking competition. But the show didn’t make it past the first season, in part because of the cost to produce it,” he said.

In 2015, after stints working in Chicago for Graham Elliot (currently a judge on the “Top Chef” TV show) at his eponymous restaurant, Graham Elliot, and also at his Elliot’s GE Bistro and after helping to open up three Matthias Merges’ restaurants: Billy Sunday, A10 and Yusho, Vermiglio decided to move back to Detroit to work on opening up Grey Ghost.

The Ferndale resident said he chose to share his lamb shank pot pie recipe because, “In the winter, there’s nothing better. And using a lamb shank elevates it beyond the more traditional chicken pie. He also said his Sweet Potato Soup recipe “is modeled after one of my all-time favorites, the Mexican soup called posole. But instead of a pig’s head, I use sweet potatoes.”

Adds the chef: “The key to quality pureed soup is to puree it in small batches and to use blend oil to emulsify it, just like you would a vinaigrette or aioli. (Editor’s note: by definition, blend oil is a combination of extra virgin oil and vegetable oil. Percentages vary.) I use blend oil because it offers the same benefits of vegetable oil while incorporating the subtle flavor of extra virgin olive oil. I try not to use butter or cream in my recipes because I think they mask the flavor,” Vermiglio said.

Although the chef works very long hours, he still tries to cook at home two or three times a week for himself and his girlfriend, Andrea Lockhart. “But it’s not as much as she would like,” he said.

Curried Lamb Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit

For the filling

2 lamb shanks

Kosher salt (to taste)

Cooking oil (enough to cover bottom of Dutch oven)

1 sprig of thyme

1 sprig of rosemary

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

2 quarts beef stock

1 whole onion, diced small

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 whole bay leaves

1/4 cup carrots, diced small

1/4 cup potato, diced small

1/4 cup rutabaga, diced small

1/4 cup celery, diced small

5 ounces unsalted butter, melted

5 ounces all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons green olives, chopped

2 tablespoons dates, chopped

For the biscuits

2 pounds self-rising flour

6 ounces unsalted butter

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg, whisked for egg wash

For the filling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat and add a splash of oil. Season lamb shanks with kosher salt and place into Dutch oven and sear on all sides. Add onion, garlic, curry powder and bay leaf; sweat until onions are translucent. Add beef stock and bring to a boil, place lid onto pot and place into the 300-degree oven for 3 hours or until lamb is falling off the bone.

Remove shanks from the pot and return to the stove top, bring to a gentle simmer. In a separate pot, combine melted butter and flour and stir to combine. Add mixture to the braising liquid and whisk. Add potato, rutabaga and carrot to liquid and continue to simmer until potatoes are tender and liquid has thickened. Remove lamb shanks from pot. Shred the lamb shanks. Return shredded lamb to pot. Add dates and olives and then season with salt to taste. Place the filling in a 9-by-13-inch pan or portion out in six individual oven-proof pots and set aside.

For the biscuits: Place flour into a large bowl. Using a cheese grater, grate cold butter into flour, tossing lightly to coat. Slowly add buttermilk while mixing by hand, continue mixing until it comes together like a dough. Knead gently, by folding dough in half, for 30 seconds. Roll out to 1/2-inch thick, punch out to appropriate size to cover the pan or the pots. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes until biscuits are golden brown, then remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 1,333 calories; 69 g fat (37 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 147 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 167 mg cholesterol; 2,830 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Frisee and Michigan Apple Salad with Egg and Bacon

For the bacon

1 pound of store-bought bacon

Or, if making your own, 1 pound fresh pork belly

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon curing salt (optional)

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 orange, zested

1 lime, zested

1 lemon, zested (reserve the juice for the vinaigrette)

For the vinaigrette

1/2 cup pecorino cheese, finely grated

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 egg yolk

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup blend olive oil (a combination of 30 percent extra virgin olive oil and 70 …

Tags: #Detroit
  1. No Wining Allowed at Miminashi – Napa’s Newest Japanese Restaurant - Food
    01.22 / 07:46
    Set amidst the traveler-friendly backdrop of wineries and vineyards, Miminashi breaks the Napa Valley mold with cutting edge, fresh Japanese cuisine in a casual environment. The post No Wining Allowed at Miminashi – Napa’s Newest Japanese Restaurant appeared first on C…
  2. Meal Plan: Week 12 - Food
    01.22 / 06:22
    Woohoo! We are on our 12th week of our meal plan series.  I hope you guys are getting some good ideas from these posts.  As always, if you have any suggestions, questions about any of these, just shoot me an email. We have some delicious stuff this week..just click on the photo or the text above the photo to be taken directly to the recipe!Have a wonderful week- Easy Brown Rice Casserole with Turkey Italian Sausage and Green Pepper from Kalyn's KitchenCheddar…
  3. Beach Beat: Sprout, sprout, let it all out — comment now -Food
    01.22 / 06:17
    Fresh, raw sprouts are among the most notorious of offenders in terms of foodborne illness outbreaks with almost 2,500 confirmed victims, including three deaths, in the past 20 years in the U.S. alone. Add in the 2011 E. coli outbreak in Europe — which sickened more than 3,900 people, killing 53 and leaving about 800... Continue R…
  4. The Ultimate Grilled Cheese -Food
    01.22 / 05:40
    These gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, subtly seasoned with garlic, taste great for lunch with sliced apples. And they're really fast to whip up, too. To save seconds, I soften the cream cheese in the microwave, then blend it with the rest of the ingredients in the same bowl. That makes cleanup a breeze. —Kathy Norris, Streator,…
  5. Fresh, cored pineapple recalled for possible Listeria risk -Food
    01.21 / 06:23
    A grocery chain in the Twin Cities area is recalling fresh-cut, cored pineapple that an unnamed supplier has recalled because of potential contamination with Listeria. It is not known what other retailers, restaurants or institutions may have received the pineapple recalled by the unnamed supplier. Lunds & Byerlys officials did not respond to requests for... Continue…
  6. Faces of Food Safety: Meet Sabrina King of the USDA -Food
    01.21 / 06:22
    Editor’s note: This is a recent installment in a series of employee profiles being published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sabrina King is an enforcement, investigations and analysis officer (EIAO), serving the Office of Field Operations (OFO) in the Atlanta district. As an EIAO, King performs food safety assessments (FSAs) in slaughter and processing... Continue…
  7. Oakland’s Hawker Fare to close - Food
    01.21 / 02:28
    Oakland's Hawker Fare to closeChef James Syhabout at Hawker Fare restaurant in Oakland in 2011. Photo: The Chronicle James Syhabout is closing Hawker Fare in Oakland (2300 Webster St.) on Feb. 18. The reason is relatively straightforward. Syhabout said there are uncertainties questions surrounding his month-to-month lease. And a group of investors just bought his building, and a few others on block, with a rumored intent of building living spaces. So instead of trying to hold onto the…
  8. Toasting the roast at the Library - Food
    01.20 / 22:52
    Admittedly, reviewing an institution so well established in the Des Moines community as the University Library Cafe is…
  9. A Store Selling Cookie Dough You Can Eat Raw Opens Wednesday - Food
    01.20 / 22:09
    You won't get food poisoning when you chow down on the dough served at DŌ's first brick-and-mortar shop. …
  10. Chocolate & Spirits Pairings to Set the Heart Aflutter - Food
    01.20 / 21:51
    Chocolate and wine pairing is well-worn Valentine's Day territory, but how about liquor? We pair four types of chocolate with four spirits. Plus: boozy…
  11. These Starbucks drinks will help get you through the rest of winter - Food
    01.20 / 21:46
    Not only has Starbucks released a delicious new winter drink, but it's also brought back one of our all-time…
  12. New All-Female Kitchen Serving Up Offal-Focused Dishes on Fulton Street - Food
    01.20 / 20:57
    The new restaurant is being headed by two of the partners behind former cafe Tilda All Day.  …
  13. Trump Inauguration Doughnuts Selling Out at Crown Heights Bakery - Food
    01.20 / 19:42
    The $1 treats at Gombo's Bakery are decorated with Trump's name and red frosting. …
  14. Hal’s Beverage Debuts Ginger Ale Line Extension - Food
    01.20 / 19:02
    Hal’s Ginger Ale will be sold in 20 oz. plastic bottles in two varieties: Original, which contains 21 grams of pure cane sugar per serving, and a zero-calorie Diet version, which is sweetened by s…
  15. Food truck growth goes full throttle: Part 3 – an industry infrastructure emerges - Food
    01.20 / 18:32
    Food trucks are the fastest-growing foodservice channel, and the niche is evolving into a well defined industry with its own organizations and support entities, including specialized software providers and event organizers. Part 3 in this 4-part series explores the emerging…
  16. Celebrity chefs and Master Somms help Sugar Land food festival step up - Food
    01.20 / 16:58
    The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is taking a big step forward in 2017. Now operated by IWSC, the UK-based company that organizes the acclaimed Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and the traveling pork festival Cochon555, the Sugar Land festival has attracted a lineup of celebrity chefs designed to draw attendees from across the Houston area to a series of events being held April 6 through 9. The four-day bash kicks off with…
  17. House Spirits Distillery Opens Tasting Room At Portland International Airport - Food
    01.20 / 16:35
    House Spirits Distillery Tasting Room, adds to the unique array of food and beverage options, and has become the first airport distillery tasting room in the world. Travelers have the opportunity to sample handmade, artisanal spirits or try a mini cocktail…
  18. Matcha LOVE Sweetens Clean Energy Portfolio with New Matcha Green Tea Powder Mix - Food
    01.20 / 16:35
    Matcha LOVE, a revitalizing line of whole-leaf green tea powders and beverages crafted to deliver a naturally energizing boost in each sip, today announced it will unveil new Sweetened Matcha Green Tea Powder Mix at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, CA at the ITO EN booth…
  19. Is California Syrah Misunderstood? - Food
    01.20 / 16:21
    Though the grape boomed in the 1990s, Syrah is still suffering through an identity crisis. A community of small producers hopes to change…
  20. Delicious new restaurant opens soon at top Austin museum - Food
    01.20 / 15:57
    Last year the Bullock Texas State History Museum announced a search for a new operator of its in-house restaurant and cafe -- and the choice has been made. Raj Singh, the owner of Delicious on South Lamar Boulevard, will be at the helm when the eatery opens in February. Expect Texas favorites and twists on comfort food. Like its sister restaurant, the Bullock cafe will focus on locally sourced ingredients and healthy, but tasty,…