Partners in Hospitality
I’ve always felt that the restaurant business is rooted in hospitality and a passion to serve others. As we look for vendors, farms, shops to partner with these two things have been prevalent throughout West Michigan. When GFS first reached out to Jeff I must admit, I didn’t know a lot about them. I didn’t realize that they’ve been a part of the fabric of West Michigan for over 120 years and that they were founded here. When Jeff first went to visit, he told me about their LEED certified building, living roof, wind farms and many sustainability efforts but my favorite story was that there in this new beautiful building hung the door from their original building-like I hope to hang our fire door from our original building. However, they didn’t actually start in a brick and mortar, like Jeff, they started with a cart. In 1897 they began selling butter and eggs on a horse drawn cart. I realize that’s a little different than Jeff’s hot dog cart but there’s a definite connection to the idea of growing from a small cart to a building and growing into a thriving business. For Gordon’s, hanging that door celebrates their heritage, their roots.
They invited us back to try some of their products and we were blown away by their attention to detail and their hospitality. Our name was on the welcome board and Shane and Eric, the rep and chef met us with warm smiles as they walked us into their new test kitchen facility. Our kitchen pod was set up with a Nipote’s tasting menu and Chef Eric started us with a charcuterie board. He talked about reading our stories and knowing how important it was for us to use a combination of authentic Italian and local products, he and Shane walked us through the origin of each of the sausages and meats. He recognized how passionate we are about using locally grown seasonal vegetables in our 2 block feature menu and he went to the market that morning to gather seasonal squashes and brussel sprouts which he charred and dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic for a warm vegetable salad. There were some inventive dishes-including a scotch olive, Italian inspired paella and a fried basil garnish that looked like stained glass in the light. For dessert they brought out a lovely, refreshing lemon swirl cheesecake and Eric made a special stop at an Italian specialty shop to pick up luxardo cherries. These maraschino cherries originated in Italy but are a far cry from the neon dye injected cherries that we see most often here. They are candied with Marasca syrup and have a silky luxurious feel and a depth of flavor that paired perfectly with the bright and tart lemon cake. While the food was lovely, what took me aback was that, as they packaged our cake to go and did so in an eco friendly container, it was clear that they had gone out of their way to understand us, who we were, what was important to us. From quality ingredients, local produce, authentic Italian ingredients and down to the sustainability of packaging, they truly went out of the way to show their passion for helping us succeed.
At the heart of hospitality is the desire to meet and exceed the needs of our guests, to blow them away with the feeling that they are special, that you’ve gone out of your way to welcome them. We are grateful for the opportunity to do just that with our own guests soon and we are so thankful when we recognize that others put forth that effort for us.
We are excited for the day that we open our doors and we are making some great progress but while we wait, we’re grateful for the opportunity to get into the test kitchen and begin to curate the menu that we will offer our guests. The kitchen is the place where we are the most comfortable, it’s like a playground where we relax and laugh and I can peek over at my husband and see a smile straight from his heart.