As Detroit goes through a cultural and culinary renaissance, restaurants are springing to life, introducing the city to creative dishes from pioneering chefs.
Although modest about his impact on the Detroit’s culinary scene, Chef Andy Hollyday started turning heads both locally and nationally when he opened Selden Standard in 2014. His seasonal, small-plate approach was a sharp contrast to the meat and potatoes that filled much of the city’s menus.
We were pretty confident that if you are putting out a good product, people would find it wherever you put it.
The Toledo, Ohio–born chef, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, started the journey toward this style of cooking while working at Michael Symon’s Detroit steakhouse, Roast, in 2008, after doing stints at restaurants around the world — California, Paris, Connecticut.
After accepting the job, Hollyday made Detroit his home and eventually became the restaurant’s executive chef. In that role he developed relationships with local farmers and vendors. This access to locally sourced ingredients would eventually inspire the thoughtful and creatively prepared plates he serves up at Selden Standard.
Now, three years since Selden opened its doors, the restaurant still packs a crowd.
Hollyday sat down with Marriott TRAVELER to chat about his love for Detroit and what it’s like to be a part of impacting a city’s culinary rise.
You were really present at the beginning of a shift in Detroit’s food scene. What made you take a chance and open a restaurant when you did?
The corner [where Selden Standard is] was rough at the time but not too far from the core of bustling Midtown. People thought we were nuts.
We were pretty confident that if you are putting out a good product, people would find it wherever you put it. We believed we’d bring something the city could embrace and needed.
We felt the pulse of the city — people wanted good things. We were fairly confident, albeit nervous. It’s been very well received. It brought confidence to other people wanting to bring some of their businesses forward.
You use a lot of local ingredients and source from local farms. Why was that important to you?
When I first took over Roast, I wanted to make the restaurant more local and seasonally focused. Most chefs would agree you should look close to home first. I started going to Eastern Market and meeting some of the urban farmers and local farmers. I made some relationships, and as I started thinking about Selden Standard, I knew I really wanted to focus on that.
Many new farmers continue to take over vacant lots and show up in the city. It’s been great to see what those farmers are doing with blighted lots — transforming them into green spaces with great product. It’s access to good product but also supporting people who are looking to shed a positive light on the areas of the city that need it.
Here we could use more ethnic foods, more sushi, Japanese. I would love to see more of that penetrate the city.
How would you describe the Detroit food scene?
Right now it’s really exciting. The last couple of years we’ve had more chef-driven, New American–style restaurants leaning more casual with really great products. It’s accessible. I think we are going to start to see a lot more diversity in the restaurant scene.
If you look at other big markets, you can get anything you want. Here we could use more ethnic foods, more sushi, Japanese. I would love to see more of that penetrate the city.
All of the chefs doing New American have their own spin and style. The city is ready for more fine dining options. There is a lot of stuff in the middle, but we could use some lower-end, cheaper eats and some higher-end restaurants [moving] in.
There are lots of challenges but also lots of opportunity — ways the city can improve and grow.
What’s the best part about being in Detroit?
When I moved here I was fascinated about the city — mostly the people that were here. All of the friends that I met were excited to be here. They all wanted to bring something positive to the city, whether it be a nonprofit, coffee shop, book store or restaurant.
People were passionate, loved the city — warts and all. There are lots of challenges but also lots of opportunity — ways the city can improve and grow. Pockets of good and pockets of not so good. We’re starting to see things cleaned up a bit, and more opportunities coming to life is progress. I’m excited to see the really rough neighborhoods see some change.