Photos Joe Vaughn / Frame
Photo credit: Valaurian Carter Val Waller Photography
It was a typical winter night in Michigan. The local TV stations were focused on the “big” snowstorm that was headed our way. Snowmaggedon 2022? Hardly. We got the snow alright but nowhere near the catastrophe predicted. Those reports didn’t stop our team at BLAC from venturing out for what turned out to be an absolutely amazing culinary experience.
FRAME, the brainchild of Super-Couple Joe and Cari Vaughan, is part restaurant, part classroom, and part dinner theater. Joe, a renowned food photographer, and Cari, a former Condé Nast editor created something truly special in the heart of Hazel Park.
A FOOD MAGAZINE YOU EXPERIENCE
The couple’s journey started in 2015 when they purchased the building on John R. Street to serve as a studio. The front space of the building became a sort of hang-out spot and eventually morphed into JoeBar. Now known as FRAMEbar, that hang-out spot has become a popular eatery in its own right.
In 2017, the tables turned when Chef Brad Greenhill’s wildly popular Takoi burned down. The Vaughan’s invited their friend to set up a temporary restaurant in their 4,200 square foot space which was equipped with an industrial kitchen.
The experiment was a huge success and launched FRAME as we know it today: an incubator and cultural hub celebrating makers of all kinds. FRAME is a safe space for new chefs to experience what it’s like to run their own restaurant without having to incur start-up costs. Established chefs have the ability to stretch their culinary muscles and experiment with cuisines that they’re not typically known for.
Former Free Press restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik joined FRAME in October of 2021 and serves as the company’s Editorial Director. The team — consisting of the Vaughans, Kurlyandchik, Culinary Director and Resident Chef Michael Barrera, Sommelier Sean Crenny, and Cocktail and Spirits Director Jaz’min Weaver — have a truly unique concept going here.
The group’s background and experience in media and creating content informs their business model. Every dining experience is carefully curated and considered as part of an editorial calendar. The team has extended the concept to include an online magazine with behind-the-scenes detail and interviews with the guest chefs.
“I’ve extended the concept of editorial to the physical FRAME spaces as well”, Kurlyandchik comments. “That means that I work to find and secure chefs and other talents for our programming, because, to me, the power of FRAME is as a storytelling platform. I like to think of it as less a restaurant, and more of a curated food magazine that you experience in person”.
THE NIGHT’S CHEF
This particular evening, the venue featured a “Cajun-Creole Dinner Party” prepared by Chef Ederique Goudia. The 40-year-old chef is a James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellowship alumni, Lead Chef for the Make Food Not Waste Upcycling Kitchen, and the Program Manager for Detroit Food Academy.
Ederique grew up in rural Louisiana where food was central to her childhood. Her grandparents lived across the street and taught her to live off of the land and treasure every ingredient. Those early influences along with her Creole lineage have informed her cuisine.
In 2020, Ederique became a lead chef for Make Food Not Waste, an effort to feed hungry Detroiters using food that would otherwise go to waste. That holiday season, the group provided Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner to over 11,000 people experiencing hunger and food insecurity. She is currently the co-founder of Taste the Diaspora, a Black History Month initiative celebrating Detroit’s Black-owned restaurants and the impact of African cuisine.
The evening started with an ultra-creative menu of craft cocktails. Cocktail-master Jaz’min Weaver walked guests through the offerings.
My tablemates sampled the mirepoix martini, consisting of Hayman’s gin, green pepper, carrot, dry vermouth, celery bitters garnished with a cocktail onion; and the clementine sidecar, featuring Pierre Ferrand brandy, housemade clementine curaçao, and lemon.
It was refreshing to see a zero-proof offering on the menu. The “Not ‘Gin’ & Tonic” consisted of house-made ginger turmeric tonic and zero-proof gin.
The craft cocktails served as the overture for this production. When suddenly the wall slid open and the kitchen arena was in full view, as if the curtain was raised and the first act was about to begin. Goudia was accompanied by her students from the Detroit Food Academy who assisted her in the preparation and serving of the five-course meal.
Chef Ederique introduced diners to the first course which featured red bean hummus, smoked bacon jam, cornbread, and house pickles. The dish was so meticulously crafted that every ingredient was able to shine.
We were crazy for the smoked bacon jam and were prepared to buy a case on the spot!
FRAME offers a cocktail and wine pairing with each dining experience. Sommelier Sean Crenny, along with Weaver introduced each thoughtfully chosen pairing. The first course was accompanied by a M. Bonnamy Crémant de Loire Brut chenin blanc blend. Absolutely delicious.
An amazing Louisiana sunburst salad was next. Ingredients included planted Detroit-grown red-streaked mizuna, romaine, arugula microgreens, vegan blue cheese, dried cranberries, shallots, sweet potato chips, and tabasco vinaigrette.
I have to admit I was leery of the tabasco. But, wow! It was perfect. Not at all overwhelming. The accompanying warm apple brandy with carrot, lemon, and a caramelized simple syrup perfectly complimented the salad.
The shrimp and mirliton bisque that followed was like a warm hug. At the risk of getting too full before the main course, I couldn’t resist eating every bite. My dinner-mates raved about the Domaine Thibert Pouilly-Fuissé chardonnay wine pairing.
THE NIGHT’S CLIMAX
Just when we thought the dinner couldn’t get any better, Chef Ederique introduced the main course, featuring a phenomenal duck confit and smoked chicken andouille gumbo. The dish featured fried pickled okra, crispy duck skin, popcorn pie and gremolata. It was a masterpiece! The Domaine de l’Espigouette grenache blend chosen by Crenny was the perfect compliment.
The crescendo of the meal was a banana foster shortcake that literally made us gasp as it was delivered to our table — as beautiful as it was tasty. Topped off with a plantation dark rum, and molasses cacao turbinado with oat milk.
The entire dinner and experience was first-rate beginning to end. We couldn’t have been more satisfied.
When asked if it was all worth it, Chef Ederique exclaimed, “My experience at FRAME was magical. The staff was so welcoming and also provided encouragement and a community-centric space for both my crew as well as the patrons. I would come back as a guest chef or a guest anytime”!
We agree with Chef Ederique. We’ll be back too!