Eating Out With… Chef Jeff Rose at C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill
By Chuck Bennett
Actually, the history between Chef Jeff Rose and me is quite simple. He has displayed his amazing culinary skills at a number of restaurants that I have patronized frequently, including Michael Symon’s Roast in Detroit, Toast, Tribute, Big Rock Chophouse and Iridescence.
We dined at the scene of Jeff’s latest venture, C.A.Y.A. (Come As You Are) Smokehouse Grill on Commerce Road in Wolverine Lake. The restaurant is sizable, seating over 100 guests at the bar and in the main dining room and its outdoor covered patio offers seating for an additional 85 guests. The feeling is comfortable with a decided industrial, rustic look – old barn wood, exposed cement brick walls, rusted copper. By contrast, there’s industrial lighting and a black onyx bar. Jeff co-owns the restaurant with Richard and Rachel Mandell. At dinner with Jeff and me, were former pro athlete, Paris McCurdy, PR exec, Rachel Lachover, and photographer, Raphael Goudy.
When we arrived, Chef Rose was dressed in his traditional chef blacks, but when he realized just how fashion conscious we are, he excused himself from the table, slipping to the back for a few minutes, returning in a soft green cotton shirt and black trousers from Banana Republic. “I like clothes that are comfortable, casual and cool,” explains Jeff. “Banana Republic is perfect for that.”
“We’re in the process of preparing to open our second restaurant,” says Jeff. “That’s what’s most exciting to me these days. I’ve always wanted to have one restaurant. So now I have one. Now I want three restaurants.”
Jeff is single and has no children. He likes to keep his personal life personal, so when we asked him who or what was he in love with right now, he quickly replied, “We’ll go with the ‘what’ I’m in love with right now, and that’s my work. I love hospitality. I love making people happy.”
Quite simply, the food at C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill is damn good. The menu is filled with items that you’d like to try. So we tried as many of them as we could, sharing a number of appetizers and entrees. We started with selections from the crafted cocktail menu. Raphael and I lived for the Tennessee Margarita with basil, lemonade and watermelon ice cubes. I used it to wash down the burnt ends chili. OMG! Loved it!
We also had a wonderful array of fresh, farm to table salads – the kale, the crudo and the tomato (our favorite) salads. We had a few appetizers. The wings were good. The seared ahi tuna was pretty awesome and I wasn’t wild about the wild mushroom flatbread, though everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy it. These entrees were all totally on point – the grilled salmon, the Asian short rib, and you simply must try the honey glazed duck. Superb! And how can you go to a smokehouse and not try the ribs? We had the baby backs – smoked to perfection with juicy meat falling off the bones at the first touch. We finished the feast with an assortment of sinful desserts (all made in-house).
C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill is not your typical fine dining experience. It’s more like going to your cousin Jeff’s house, who happens to be an amazing chef. For some, it’s a bit of drive, but absolutely worth the 40-minute drive it took for us to get there. We’ll be back. Soon!
C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill
1403 S. Commerce Road
Wolverine Lake, Michigan 48390