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Meet Eater Young Guns Semi-Finalist Peter Roumanis

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Young Guns 2013 semi-finalist Peter Roumanis was raised by a family of people in food and has known from a very young age that this would be his path as well. After a stint in New York City he decided to return to his roots in Ann Arbor where he opened Vellum Restaurant. Young Guns panelist Daniel Boulud said of Peter: "The passion exhibited by someone like Peter is exactly what I like to see in eager young industry professionals. The Midwest needs more talent like this, too."

Below, Roumanis talks about his return from New York to Michigan, the improved food systems of the Midwest, and how Vellum fits into the restaurant scene of Ann Arbor.

Can you talk about how you got into food?
My whole family is in the restaurant business, in the food business I should say. My family is Greek. From the time they were in Greece to the U.S. they've had an olive oil company. It is from that part of our life, and we have been doing that for about 200 years or so. Through that my father's generation eventually went into opening restaurants in the US, first in LA and then in Ann Arbor. I grew up in the restaurant business myself, and I got really interested. Eventually I was sent off to Europe to a couple of places and went to university and things like that.

And you went to school in upstate New York?
I went to Cornell where I went to the hospitality school.

Talk about your decision to leave New York City and move back to Ann Arbor.
I love New York and it was a crazy thing among my friends to think that I could leave the city. I was having a wonderful time. My community of friends are still there, so it was a shock to a lot of people. My father, he said, "Listen Peter, there's this building, I know you are considering opening a restaurant, you should come check this out maybe you might be interested in this building." I flew to Ann Arbor and I fell in love with it. The building used to be an old printing press.

It was a beautiful three-story kind of affair. I fell in love with the building. It was the kind of thing where five to 10 years ago, I wouldn't have thought to come to Ann Arbor. But now the food systems are in place where I can get ingredients just as good as in New York. Fish in the Midwest isn't easy to get, but everything else including vegetables, fruits from the farm, and all the meat I have been getting quality that simply didn't exist. As an initial project I was confident Ann Arbor would be a good place to start. It is not quite the limelight as in New York, but I can still perfect my craft in a place, and do it in a way that is a little bit more forgiving.

How does your restaurant fits into the culinary landscape of Ann Arbor right now?
I think it's a wonderful compliment to see restaurants are very much homegrown. People who live and work their whole lives in Ann Arbor create these wonderful restaurants. I grew up here, I have the spirit of the town in myself. But all the techniques and my upbringing in terms of restaurants have been from elsewhere, so there is like this experiential aspect of surprise. If I had to describe the restaurant in a few words it would be new American fare, American fare that people aren't used to and is presented in a different light. With execution we try hard to make it as perfect as possible.

Is your family still involved in this restaurant, or is this more of your venture?
My father is in restaurants, but this is a project I have been working on. I did the financing, the hiring, the menu. He was here every day of course, because he's been doing this for forty years. He is definitely very influential, however making sure the payments are done on time, finding the right tablecloth and tableware, the design aspect is all something that was on my shoulders, ultimately it was my name on it.

So what's it like to run a restaurant at such a young age?
In a way I have been preparing for this for a long time. I knew since I was 12 or so that I would be going into this business. I have been waiting to do this for a very long time. All my plans and internships were geared towards running restaurants. It is an exciting opportunity. It is a nerve-wracking thing on a daily basis. Ultimately, this is what I really wanted to do all my life. I am very excited about it.

[Video provided by Vellum Restaurant]

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209 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI ‎

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