Eating out with…Marc Djozlija
Marc Djozlija was born in Madison Heights, Michigan, and began making treks around the country over 20 years ago to pursue his career as a celebrated chef. With some extensive training and a few odd jobs, in no time, he became executive chef of Wolfgang Puck Group in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Eventually, he found himself back in Detroit to open Wolfgang Puck Grille inside MGM Grand Detroit, and then Wolfgang Steak and Wolfgang Pizzeria & Cucina. A little over a year ago, he left his longtime relationship with Puck to open Wright & Company, a contemporary American small plates restaurant situated in the historic Wright Kay Building in the heart of downtown Detroit.
Marc, always a gracious host, would come out of the kitchen to say hello and often send special treats to the table. He knew the way to our hearts. We discovered another connection with Marc a couple years ago when we selected his then girlfriend (now his wife), Laura Hughes, to the Best Dressed list for Hour Magazine.
Well, of course, if we’re going to Eat Out With… Marc DJozlija, we’re going to eat at Wright & Company. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s a really cool second-floor space (above the John Varvatos store), located on the corner of Woodward and John R. You’ll kind of have to know where you’re going because there is no real signage. The constant flow of standing-room-only crowds suggests, however, that perhaps big fancy signs are not necessarily what they’re made out to be — at least not here.
Marc partners in Wright & Co. with Dave Kwiatkowski, owner of The Sugar House, a craft cocktail bar in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. In fact, the whole concept of Wright & Co. began with Dave and Marc’s desire to create a restaurant that they would seek out if they went to another city.
“Our goal was to create a gathering place with emphasis on great food and beverages, and, of course, hospitality,” Marc explains. “We wanted it to be accessible and comfortable, a place where you could come for a beer before a baseball game, a cocktail after the opera, or just a great dinner with your friends.”
When we arrived, Marc was wearing his work uniform – dark t-shirt, jeans, black apron. “It’s the same thing everyone wears who works in the kitchen. I don’t try to make them feel that I’m better or different by wearing the white chef’s coat. I almost never do that. I wear what they wear.”
After learning that his wife, Laura, was unable to join us, Marc joked: “I was depending on her to handle the fashion and beauty end of this interview. I guess it’s all on me now.” With that, he slipped away for a moment and returned wearing a crisp white David Bitton shirt with printed trim, jeans and John Varvatos Converse sneakers, a fashion item that he’s so fond of that he gifted each of his groomsmen with a pair when he and Laura recently married. Generally, you’ll find Marc in casual attire, “Unless Laura makes me get dressed up to go to the DIA or someplace fancy with her.”
Marc is excited about a lot of things these days. Most of all, he quickly tells us, is his recent nuptials to Laura Hughes. Secondly, he’s still pretty stoked about Wright & Co and another of him and Dave’s collaborative endeavors, Café 78, inside the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.
“We’re really excited about two new very cool projects that we’re involved with right now,” he said. “One is called The Peterboro, which will be a new Asian-inspired restaurant in the Cass Corridor and the other is a speakeasy, with the working title, Bad Luck Club, because it’s where you go when you can’t get a reservation or a seat at one of our other restaurants.”
“I married the most wonderful woman in the world,” he says proudly. “We share so many interests and we’re so good for each other.” He points out that they met through mutual friends about four years ago and got serious during a time when they both left existing good jobs to venture out into the unknown. That, too, worked out well for both of them. We know Marc’s story. Laura was Executive Director at the Ruth Ellis Center and is now a VP at Strategic Staffing Solutions. The happy couple was married in Detroit on August 15, 2015.
If you don’t already know, Marc makes magic in the kitchen. He was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award, and was a semi-finalist for Best Chef Great Lakes Region. His culinary offerings will take you all over the board and if you’re the slightest bit adventurous, you’ll delight in every turn. We started with the popular Pork Belly Sliders. Don’t worry about what it is or how it sounds, just go for it. You’ll be glad you did. We also did the refreshing Snap Pea Salad with crisp salami, shaved red onions and pecorino cheese. Yum!
Next, Burrata Cheese, Crisp Gulf Shrimp (the best!), and the Crab and Avocado Toast was brought to the table, all to rave reviews. As an entrée, we shared the Roasted Pork tenderloin with goat cheese puree, pickled apricots and Dijon mustard; and the Sirloin Steak with caramelized onions, creamed chard and red wine reduction. And while we were certain there was no room for dessert, when the Chocolate Mousse with strawberries and hazelnut brittle was placed in front of us next to the Butterscotch Pudding with nutmeg and ginger snap cookies, well, let’s just say it was a perfect end to a perfect meal.
The food is great. The service is good. The atmosphere is amazing. Wright & Company personifies what the new Detroit is all about. It welcomes the new while paying homage to the old. It embraces diversity in many forms. “We want this place to be what our guests want it to be,” Marc concludes. “If you want to wear shorts and a t-shirt, then that’s fine, but the lady at the next table might have on a ball gown. And that’s cool, too. We’re casual and fun, the menu changes seasonally and nothing costs more than $19. You can’t beat that.”
by Chuck Bennett
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