With the ever discerning palette attending dinner functions at the swankiest places in town, preeminent restaurateurs maintain a level of cognitive sophistication that intrigues and delights the crowds. This is exactly what Birmingham Michigan’s Daxton Hotel Restaurant, Madam, is accomplishing. Boasting marvelous seasonal menus with the freshest ingredients, it’s almost magical to see such consistently delicious courses birthed from their kitchen.
The creativity of food and dining nourishes our soul when all of our senses are engaged. Madam takes nourishment a step further and captures our imagination with fresh and inspired offerings. Perhaps, even more importantly, their method simultaneously gives back to the land and community that the restaurant is a part. Madam has taken on the noble challenge of fascinating a guest’s mind with a calculated and ecotropic spread serving as conduit.
In an exclusive interview with Chef Rece Hogerheide – Executive Sous Chef, Chef du Cuisine of Madam, he details a snapshot of what goes into maintaining the well-oiled machine that is the Madam kitchen who brings these temporary art pieces to the fore.
Lim-Lim: Can you detail the various sustainable food production tactics of Daxton Hotel?
Chef Rece: Due to the large volume of product that is actually processed onsite we choose to process as much as we can, whole. Be it whole animals when possible, whole unprocessed produce direct from farms, or producing the products all together ourselves on site. This allows us to have total control over the waste and byproduct we get from everything that walks in the door to our kitchen. With produce, finding a use for every part of the fruit or vegetables is crucial to mitigating waste and using modern and traditional preservation practices to create new items to be reintroduced into our menus is a variety of ways. This also allows us to buy up large amounts of produce at the peak of season and use throughout the year, from pickles to in house hot sauce.
For protein processing we can utilize trim and bones to create stocks and sauces that are used throughout the kitchen, however having a strong charcuterie program lends to being able to create a large variety of offerings that can always be changing based on seasonality and what is most readily available from our producers. We also compost very heavily. All kitchen scrap or organic material that can be composted is. Including products from other areas of the hotel. This goes to a farm that works in a closed loop system, so the corn husks from this past summer will be the dirt to grow the tomatoes we use next year. Mitigating waste as much as possible has been a goal for our team since the beginning.
How do these methods contribute to the freshness of the ingredients?
We work with our farmers to plan season to season what will be most bountiful and readily available to us. At the beginning of every year a crucial part of menu planning and development starts from seed planting meetings with the farmers that grow produce for us, followed by meeting with our farms that raise the animals we use to see what the annual projections will be for hogs, chickens, cattle, etc.. Keeping these systems sustainable is the main goal but having the luxury of working with producers that care about pristine products as much as we do guarantees that what our guests are receiving is nothing less than perfect. Working with the seasons and buying in bulk whenever items are at peak allows us to showcase fresh products. If we feel that it’s best to preserve them in whatever manner just gives the option of showcasing it for longer into the year.
Is there a discernible difference in taste between the food that you procure and that which others order from commercial suppliers, even of the highest quality?
Yes, to be frank. The agricultural availability that Michigan has to offer is so diverse that as a state allows the ability for all different types of farmers, growers, and producers to cultivate a seemingly endless array of products. Working closely with farmers that are growing produce that is either specific heirloom varieties or come from a background in the slow food movement assures us that it will have superior flavor to any mass produced products. Same for any animals that we bring in. Heritage breeds that are raised humanely that have been bred for superior flavor, size, and fat content, are what we seek out when working with farms.
How do you manage the demand of both internal and external guests? Are there unique considerations in managing inventory that other establishments wouldn’t have?
At Daxton, we offer a very diverse menu that allows us to facilitate what we have perceived to be the demand of both internal and external guests. Hotels need to be able to meet the needs of an even wider array of clientele than a standalone restaurant would. From families vacationing in the city that have young children to international travelers looking to have a world class experience. Knowing your crowd is a very useful tool here. Applying world knowledge of food with a midwestern desire for hospitality allows us to continually impress our guests and create great experiences. With that in mind, our inventory can be quite large for this size of a property. However, our team’s dedication and hard work keeps that in check. Constantly having fresh products that we hold the highest standards on, ensures that we are never “too crazy”. Running an internal audit regularly allows us to keep ourselves in check.
Can you discuss the on-site butchering process including measures taken for humane butchering?
On-site butchering really is dependent on what we are currently featuring on the menu. From processing whole hogs for charcuterie and other various products to regularly butchering whole poultry on a daily basis. We work very closely with the farms that raise these animals to ensure they are meeting our criteria for what we want to serve. Personally, having worked with and on many of the farms allows me to have a deep understanding of what the day to day is for them. Giving a clear idea of how their animal husbandry affects what we do, allows the farmers to raise animals exactly how we want. It’s referred to typically as the breed and feed, when specifying what we want. Even as far as how big of a ribeye we want as a whole muscle, these farmers can know when the cattle need to be taken in to harvest.
Beef is brought in when we are processing in sub-primals or in whole muscle groups, I.e. rib loins, etc.. Further depending on the finished product we want, the beef will hang for a day up to a week before it is butchered. Bones are frozen or used for stock.
Hogs are brought in whole or split. They are typically harvested between 1 to 3 days before arriving onsite, meaning they have been dispatched within 12-72 hours. They are broken down by hand into primals or further and then hung for a week. Offal is processed and frozen. Bones are put to stock.
Sausage is produced for the restaurant, other charcuterie items are made and stored to be hung for later or preserved. Bellies are made into bacon that is served for breakfast and brunch everyday in the restaurant.
Poultry arrives within a few days of slaughter and is processed nearly everyday. Bones are saved and stockpiled to make a large amount of stock that is used in a multitude of ways across our kitchen.
Fish is processed the day it arrives, all trim is saved to be used in many different ways from mousselines to sausages, confits, and used to fortify broths sometimes.
Any of these products have multiple uses but we always try to find a way to keep putting it back into our food system. Even if it means that it’s last step is being turned into soil via compost, it will grow produce for us to use the next year.
“Working with producers that care about pristine products as much as we do guarantees that what our guests are receiving is nothing less than perfect”
What is a typical day for you?
Every morning, I check through the kitchen and all stations with the cooks. Seeing what they are working on for the day, what needs they have to communicate with the other teams, and getting them set up to be successful for their shift. Followed by going through with the production team the needs for the kitchen, checking in on long term projects and letting them know what is coming in for the day in terms of orders. I’ll assist the production team with butchering, pasta production, any of the preservation of products for the kitchen, and all while having oversight of our banquet program and restaurant. Mid-day we gather the AM team for a post shift to discuss happenings in the restaurant and set expectations for the following day. This is a crucial checkpoint for the staff for the day, used as an open forum type time to have clear communication with the Chef team.
As the day progresses, the PM staff begin to arrive. While there is a break in service, I’ll try to respond to emails and start ordering products from vendors, check in with staff and attend meetings. Mostly office work while not focusing on service. As the PM team checks in with their AM counterparts, I follow through and walk through the stations and do quality checks for all of the products with the sous chef team. Mid afternoon we gathered the team again for a Preservice.
Through the rest of the night I’ll be standing on the pass watching food go out and assisting the Sous chef team as they handle the many obstacles of managing running our banquet program and the restaurant. Both of which are always busy, keeping everyone on their toes. Towards the end of the night I’ll check in with the closing sous chef for what they need to do to set up the team for the next day and see what each of the cooks need for the following shift. Around 11 I’ll do more rounds and start my process of leaving. Checking through all of the areas of the kitchen to see what needs to be finished. It’s not as routine as this may sound, because everyday is always different. I try to be as consistent as I can, but anyone in this industry knows, no two days are the same.
Were alternative sustainable practices considered? If so, which ones, and why did you decide on your current modus operandi?
For the size of our operations, we are faced with mainly the only issue of physical limitations of the property. This means that every method of production needs to be deliberate and have a system in place for everything. We felt most confident in our current practices from experience in similar operations. Our team’s dedication to being sustainable was very quickly identified as being of high importance to everyone, which made it a lot easier to decide that we wanted to work diligently to be as sustainable as possible. Composting, recycling, “up-cycling” products, and working with key producers made it easy for us realistically.
Are there future practices that you are looking to integrate into your operations?
We have explored several options and are working through what would be best for the property in the long run. One exciting program is, looking to work with “Bee’s in the D”. Keeping things close knit in our community in terms of food production doesn’t really get any closer than on our own property. Which can truly give a sense of the terroir of our location.
Does the Madam kitchen participate in philanthropy or other community outreach programs?
Madam actively works with Detroit Food Rescue to donate excess food products we have for them to distribute to the needy in our local area. We plan to expand our programs in this realm in the future.
Madam is undeniably pushing the envelope on sustainability in fine dining today. The Madam team has successfully created a meticulous closed-loop restaurant system which is an impressive and practically unheard of feat for any premium restaurant, not to mention in the Midwest! The thoughtfulness that Madam offers may inspire one to be more conscientious too. It is this sustainability-driven compassion and strategic foresight that will make Daxton and Madam a mainstay success. When looking for the next scrumptious yet substantive dining experience, Madam will surely remain a top-of-the-list recommendation for many seasons to come.
Featured image | Lim-Lim Kobe