|Chef Ray Hollingsworth. Photo by Garrett MacLean for Macomb Now.|
“I started cooking when I was 15,” Hollingsworth says. “Oakland Community College was the only school that had any kind of culinary program at the time; they were ahead of everybody.” He went through their program then spent three years training under American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Master Chef Jeffrey Gabriel at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. “Most of the chefs in the metro area were of European descent — like Master Chef Milos Cihelka of the Golden Mushroom. They were hardcore chefs; it was a harsh upbringing for awhile!” he laughs.
And then came Food Network and, with it, “foodie” culture. The average restaurant patron is much more savvy and educated when it comes to food now, and that knows no boundaries — unless, of course, you’re talking about the invisible line along I-75 that divides the culinary illuminati of Oakland County from the perceived plebian tastes of Macomb. That very same line also prevents the self-proclaimed “foodies” of Oakland County from stepping into eastern territory, convinced that there is no worthwhile culinary landscape to explore here.
At the Loon River Café inside the Best Western of Sterling Heights, a Michigan-themed lodge with emphasis on Michigan products, Hollingsworth tries to educate the eating public by using only the highest-quality ingredients and top talent. “In the early days we put a lot of emphasis in the quality of the product and employees; we hire local culinary students and ACF-certified chefs,” he explains. “We still do to this day, even with budget cuts. We’re not substituting for lower quality ingredients.”
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