March 16 2016 12:54 AM

Six Greater Lansing chefs talk favorite foods, guilty pleasures

This week, City Pulse launches its first ever Dining Guide. As a companion to the Dining Guide, we rounded up a panel of Greater Lansing chefs to talk about when they started cooking and what they make when they’re looking to impress.

Courtesy Photo

Kyoung Moon Yang, aka "Chef Moon," Executive chef at Maru

When did you discover your love for cooking?

Cooking and eating good food has always been a huge part of my life. Since I was around 10 years old, I helped out at my father's restaurant, washing dishes and carrying out simple food preparation. I remember really enjoying being around flavorful food and the busy kitchen scene. My mother is also a fabulous cook. Through her cooking, I was able to experience a variety of cuisine.

What is your favorite item on the menu at Maru?

It's hard to pick just one! But one of favorite items from our menu is a signature roll called Mahalo. It has crunchy shrimp, avocado and spicy mayo inside; yellowtail and avocado on top of the roll; and it's served with fresh pineapple salad infused with eel sauce, lime juice, and ginger juice.

Mahalo means much more to me than just a flavorful food item. It was the very roll that brought me to Maru. Robert Song, owner of Maru, visited the restaurant down in Knoxville where I was then head chef. After trying the Mahalo roll, he approached me to ask if I would move to Michigan and work for him. Apparently, the roll impressed him!

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

My food philosophy is to present a dish that guests can enjoy with both the eyes and the palate. I try to bring this idea to Maru as well, striving to achieve not only excellence in its food quality, but also in the colorful and artistic plating and aroma. I recommend customers order the chef's platter or chef's special roll, where you can experience the creativity of our chefs. This is what I suggested to my wife when she first came and sat at the sushi bar seven years ago, and it certainly impressed her enough to return to the restaurant many times.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

As much as I love trying good and healthy food, there are times I badly crave spicy instant ramen noodles from my home country, South Korea. It's one of my comfort foods, I guess. For the same reason, I always like to get a side of biscuits and gravy whenever I try out a new breakfast restaurant. It brings back memories of living in Tennessee.


Ty Forquer/City Pulse

James Sumpter, Executive chef at Dusty's Cellar

When did you discover your love for cooking?

I discovered my love for cooking at a young age. By 9, I was cooking my grandmother's recipes independently in her kitchen. I realized around the age of 18 that the kitchen is where my passion lies.

What is your favorite item on the menu at Dusty’s?

Sashimi grade salmon with gochujang glaze. We bring in whole sashimi grade salmon to ensure the freshness of this dish. The sweet fermented Korean chili paste caramelizes over the top.

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

I impress my guests by getting them involved with the cooking. I like to bring everyone over and have the ingredients spread out over different stations. The food tastes better when you are involved. For a date, I may take it a step further and buy all the ingredients together at a market.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

My guilty pleasure would be the ice cream shop. I love to go with my daughter, Madison, and get a toffee-coffee malt.


Allan I. Ross/City Pulse

Dan Konopnicki, Corporate executive chef for the Potent Potables Project, which includes Cosmos/Zoobie’s and the Creole

When did you discover your love for cooking?

I was raised by a family of amazing cooks, but I discovered my true passionafter working for Kevin Cronin, former chef at Dusty's Wine Bar, who is one my mentors. It was there I discovered a personal relationship with the food I prepare.

What is your favorite item on the menu at the Creole?

Its a toss up between the Mero sea bass and the braised pork belly.

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

It depends on the date, or special guest. When cooking for friends or family, I tend to stick with good, old fashioned Michigan comfort food.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

Yes! Like most chefs I know, my eating habits are horrible. In the morning, I go for a honey bun and an energy drink. At night, I’m a greasy taco or pizza guy.



Courtesy Photo

Sarah Kops, Chef at State Room Restaurant

When did you discover your love for cooking?

I discovered it while cooking family German recipes with my grandma as a child, things like sausages and spätzle.

What is your favorite item on the menu at the State Room?

I don’t have a favorite — that’s like asking someone which of their children they love the most! I love them all for different reasons.

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

My go-to when I’m looking to impress is curried braised oxtail with wilted Swiss chard and Indian bundi.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

Deluca’s pizza and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Comfort food, definitely.







Courtesy Photo

Chris Carrington, Executive chef at Lansing Brewing Co.

When did you discover your love for cooking?

I think I really fell in love with cooking in high school.

What is your favorite item on the menu at Lansing Brewing Co.?

Adam’s short rib grilled cheese. The short ribs are braised in our Amber Cream Ale then served on grilled sourdough with Swiss and Muenster cheeses and caramelized onions.

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

I make a pretty mean breakfast — or maybe a rib-eye steak.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

My guilty pleasures are chocolate chip cookie dough and ramen noodles.





Ty Forquer/City Pulse

Keith Havard, Owner of Jumbeaux

When did you discover your love for cooking?

Probably when I was 12 years old. I learned how to cook by watching and helping my dad in the kitchen.

What is your favorite item on the menu at Jumbeaux?

I would have to say our new chicken piquant or the blackened catfish filet

If you had to make one dish to impress a date or a special guest, what would you make?

My signature Jumbeaux Balls, which are deep-fried jambalaya balls served with a house-made dressing.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, food-wise?

I never use a microwave and stay away from fast food, but I eat all the junk food I can.

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