Chef Craig Lieckfelt: Detroit's Culinary Champion

Chef Craig Lieckfelt: Detroit's Culinary Champion
Christina Holmes

Detroit chef Craig Lieckfelt.

Some people have called sixth-generation Detroit native chef Craig Lieckfelt crazy.

After working in the kitchens of Manhattan’s Gotham Grill and Jean-Georges, he moved back to his barely-still-breathing hometown and, in September 2012, started Guns & Butter: a fine dining pop-up that’s so good that it caught the attention of Anthony Bourdain and the team at CNN. They visited Motor City for the final episode of the second season of their critically acclaimed series Parts Unknown. When Bourdain asked the chef how opening a fine-dining restaurant helped the dire state of things in Detroit, Lieckfelt answered, “How is it not making it better? How is sitting back not doing anything making it better? How is only buying my products from Detroit or farmers in Detroit not helping Detroit? I'm supplying from Detroit. I'm hiring people from Detroit. Everybody here lives in Detroit.”

It can be difficult to tell if the chef is more passionate about food or Detroit, but we don’t necessarily count that against him. His is a kind of guerilla cooking, in a sense, as he’s using his personal skills to help revive Detroit — to make people aware of the fact that it isn’t a city of closed automobile plants and ghost gardens; that, in fact, Detroit residents can appreciate the finer things in life, which include thoughtful and excellent food.

Based on the overwhelmingly positive reaction, it’s pretty easy to tell just how much Detroit natives appreciate Lieckfelt, his thought-provoking food, and his effort to hoist up the cultural significance of Detroit within the national (and international) culinary landscape. He’s cooked for diners in Dubai, London, Los Angeles, New York City; everywhere he goes, his is one of the hottest tickets in town. Whenever Lieckfelt returns home form his gastronomic travels, he still enjoys a warm welcome when he does. Recently, he received over a thousand reservation requests for a 60-seat dinner in fewer than 24 hours. He’s working to open a full-time, permanent Guns & Butter restaurant, but in the meantime, the chef is laboring tirelessly to support the return of a healthy Detroit — one with a robust and acclaimed culinary scene.

When you think about it in those terms, Lieckfelt isn’t crazy at all. 

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