Winters in Detroit are brutal. Sometimes, we go weeks without seeing the sun! Pair that with frigid temps, gusty winds and sporadic snowfalls – by the end of February, we’re beyond ready for spring.
In anticipation of warmer weather, Spoke Events teamed up with Detroit-based chef, Sopheana Duch for ‘Into the Evergreen,’ a dinner pop-up. We want to help you beat those winter blues and take you on an adventure from warming comfort food, to a lighter, greener season.
The pop-up is Monday, February 27 at 5:30 and 8:30 at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. in Midtown, Detroit, but I was so excited about it, I sat down with chef Duch to find out more about her love of cooking, collaboration and what inspired her “Into the Evergreen’ menu.
I’ve had your food several times and it’s amazing! How did you get into cooking?
My mom always cooked for us growing up; it was at first taught to me as a necessity, a way to nourish family, but it was my mom's passion. You could see it and you could taste it in her cooking, and she was determined to pass that on to my sisters and me.
Also, I was a child of cable TV, so I watched a lot of Martha Stewart and the Food Network. That translated food for me, as … a creative outlet.
Semi-related side note: my college nickname was Sopheana Stewart. I never even considered cooking as a career- even now- after everyone keeps bugging me to open my own restaurant. But I guess it just might be my fate.
I’d say it’s definitely in the cards for you. What is it about cooking you enjoy so much?
I always had a need to express myself creatively and I found I could easily do it through food. Plus I love to eat!
And food makes people happy – the best part of cooking is when I get to watch people's reaction after that first bite. If their eyelids either close slowly or pop wide open, it's a good thing. My favorite example is when a chocolate cupcake with strawberry buttercream brought my friend to tears. She said it reminded her of her grandmother. That, to me, is worth everything.
I’ve been to a few of your pop-ups before. How many have you done now?
This will be my fourth!
Well, I’m honored to be a part of it this time! What would you say is unique about this one?
I'm passionate about food, but I also love collaborating.
Coming from an interior design background, creating an inviting environment and the right ambiance was always a consideration in my pop-ups, but I had never teamed up with an event planner before. Having you as a dedicated planner lets me focus most of my attention on my main job, cooking!
We'll also have some beverage pairings by James Cadariu of Great Lakes Coffee, who has extensive knowledge on most things drinkable: wine, beer, coffee.
It's such a privilege that everyone involved can lend his or her expertise to really enhance the full dining experience.
Absolutely! I can’t wait for Monday and to watch it all play out together. But back to the food. What inspired your menu for ‘Into the Evergreen?’
Choosing seasonal food is important to me because that's when everything tastes the best, when they are at their height of flavor. I love that you can just let nature do its thing.
I chose warm, vibrant, comfort foods because that's what we need in these gray Michigan winters.
Food is a very personal thing, so I realized each dish had a little bit of an Asian influence. It was very unintentional, but it's what I grew up with; it's what I know best, and it's what I'm automatically drawn to for comfort. The soup course, for example, is congee. This rice porridge, in and of itself, is delicious. In Cambodia, it's a breakfast food, baby food, and the "chicken noodle soup" we go to when we're a little under the weather. In doing a little research, I found that congee exists in most cultures across the continents, in different forms, by different names. But it's fascinating that all across the world, one thing rings true: it is everyone's comfort food. That's what inspires me- the melding of cultures and the common grounding of food.
What is your favorite thing to make right now?
I'm really into layer cakes right now. Not even from a culinary consumption standpoint, but purely out of the simple indulgence of embellishment and making something beautiful.
A chocolate cake with vanilla frosting is a blank canvas that I can just have at it. Give me a piping bag and a few carefully selected icing tips and I’m a frosting force to be reckoned with.
That’s awesome! I’ve seen the menu, and I know there are no layer cakes on there, but what can guests expect on Monday?
Thoughtfulness, care, and attention. We put in a lot of work as a team to create a symbiotic experience that caters to the senses. Everything from the plates to the garnish and the wine were carefully selected.
Also, I hope that dining with strangers will foster lively conversation through food, and everyone will leave better off. It's what this world needs right now.
Absolutely! Will there be more pop-ups in your future?
Of course! And more collaborations too!
And what about private events? How can people follow what you have coming up?
I’m available for private events on a very small scale, in the short term. There are definitely big projects in the works for long term. Just give me a call, and I'm always willing to see what I can do and follow me on Instagram @sophduch or my blog: www.shoestringduchess.com. Just don't follow me in real life, cause that's creepy, thanks!
If you want to experience chef Duch’s culinary skills first hand, don’t forget to grab your tickets for ‘Into the Evergreen.’ We’ll see you Monday night!