Now that the the list of Eater Young Guns semi-finalists has been released, it's time to get to know these rising stars. Check this space for regular introductions to each of the 50 semi-finalists and tune in on June 24 to find the list of winners.
Garrett Lipar, 26, spent the past year and half morphing a struggling Detroit-area cafe into a tasting menu-only restaurant that's filled up every night. The Young Gun semi-finalist is the chef/general manager of Torino, a nine-table restaurant which Eater Detroit editor Victoria Trudeau calls a culinary gem with a "closet-sized kitchen." Lipar describes his culinary style as "super seasonal and really focused and balanced" which "lends itself to the very modern and very classic."
It's worth taking a look at their Instagram to check out his plates, but for now here are 10 other things to know about Michigan's only Young Gun semi-finalist...
1. Lipar got his start in Michigan.
Back when he was 14, Lipar caught a glimpse of life in the kitchen as a dishwasher and then a cook at a nearby nursing home. After another gig as a line cook at a local restaurant, he decided to pursue it professionally.
2. He made his way to a one-Michelin star restaurant in NYC, by way of Arizona.
Lipar headed West for culinary school, but his time in the desert was short-lived ("I couldn't stand Arizona—it was way to hot for me."). Being in school gave him the chance to take on an externship at New York's Public, under the watch of Brad Farmerie. "He gave me the opportunity to really learn and grown in his kitchen, and he was the first person to mold who I am and my style," Lipar says.
3. Sweden changed everything for him.
After some time in Chicago (he worked at Boca and staged at Alinea), Lipar spent a year cooking, tasting and traveling in Scandinavia. "I fell in love with that style of cooking and realized it was a reflection of where I came from," he says. "The Michigan area has a colder climate, but we do have a beautiful bounty in the summer and in the spring."
4. Starting in 2013, his focus was on Torino.
Lipar returned home to Michigan in January 2013, and his friends introduced him to Noah Dorfman, the owner of Torino. Dorfman invited Lipar to check out the space, and while he appreciated how clean and modern it was, it was still a cafe with a bar. To sum it up, "Noah was at a weird spot, and so I was I." They set to work expanding Torino's concept together.
5. He works in a tiny kitchen.
Lipar and his crew work out of a 9- by 15-foot kitchen, which was originally equipped with just a panini press and a hot well. They spent three months working on renovations in the back of the house (like adding a hood), but they can still never have gas in the space. Dealing with such tight quarters is "always the battle."
6. Lipar believes the small size is good for a young chef.
These confines helped create their minimalist, five-course approach. Says Lipar, "We realized a small tasting menu that changed very, very quickly was good for us, because we have no cooler space and we don't have a chance to hold onto product very long."
7. Torino wasn't a total overnight success.
"We'd have nights where we'd do six covers a night and we'd only do 20 covers a week," Lipar says. "It was difficult for a while, but we believed in this. And the people that did come were so happy." By the time 2013 ended, Torino was named restaurant of the year by the Detroit Free Press.
8. He is product obsessed.
Lipar's menus read more like a list of ingredients, where course one might be "dandelion, hosta, maple flowers" followed by "chanterelles, hay, squash." He works with local farms to ensure organic Mangalitsa pork and "crazy, old-school heritage poultry" make it into his kitchen.
9. Lipar is influencing Detroit's whole scene.
"His tasting menu-only restaurant is one of a kind in the area, and he has not only brought a new kind of dining to Metro Detroit, but he has done it well," says Trudeau. "...His plates are visually stunning, and his food is absolutely fearless (and most importantly, delicious)."
10. He and Torino are still evolving.
"We've changed our menu every single week for a year now, says Lipar. "The [goal for the] future is to perfect what we do, and to make a more intelligent menu that's even better. My long-term plan is to kill it, put out the best food I can."
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— Katie Abbondanza