By Merinda Valley
Meridian Times staff writer
OKEMOS — Although Red Haven typically serves local cuisine, the Okemos eatery will soon dish out New Jersey native Anthony Bourdain.
Bestselling author and culinary TV personality Bourdain will reminisce about his travels and experiences in the food industry at the Wharton Center on May 7, as part of his Guts and Glory Tour. In conjunction with his performance, Bourdain will attend a private event the following night at the new and distinctive Red Haven restaurant.
Red Haven co-owner and operator Nina Santucci was slightly incredulous when she received the call from Bourdain’s tour producers. They requested the restaurant as a sponsor for Bourdain’s East Lansing stop, though the business had been open only a month.Santucci said Bourdain was on her wish list of high-profile visitors to her restaurant.
“It was incredibly exciting. I mean, it was a great boost for us because we had just opened, and so it was just kind of one of those things where it felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing,” Santucci said.
Since its opening in October of this year, the Okemos restaurant has been delivering unique dishes that reflect Santucci’s and co-owner Anthony Maiale’s experiences in big “foodie” towns across the country. Santucci said encouraging sharing, and pushing the boundaries of diners’ palates with dishes like ribeye steak with a side of skewered beef heart, lies at the center of the Red Haven philosophy.
The broader focus of Santucci and other members of the Red Haven operating team is to source from Michigan. Local suppliers provide beer, cheese, produce and other items that grace Red Haven’s menu. Even the wood that decorates the restaurant’s interior was reclaimed from barns in the Great Lakes state.
These aspects of Michigan will be on full display during Bourdain’s meet-and-greet at the restaurant. It will operate in the style of a cocktail party, Santucci said, with plenty of food and drinks for guests as they meet with Bourdain for an autograph or picture.
According to Santucci, parts of the meal have been decided, but the chefs will finalize the menu closer to the date based on the items available.
Phil Throop of the Wildflower Eco Farm in Bath, Mich., is a Red Haven supplier who will likely deliver vegetables to the restaurant before Bourdain’s event. Throop said selling produce to Red Haven has been an effective way to promote his crops.
“It’s been great,” Throop said of his farm’s relationship with Red Haven. “We really think the world of those guys and what they do to promote what local agriculture has to offer.”
Red Haven was one restaurant on a list that the Wharton Center compiled for Bourdain’s Guts and Glory Tour producers because, as Bob Hoffman, public relations manager for the Wharton Center said, the locally sourced characteristic seemed to be in line with Bourdain and the style of his tour.
Hoffman said that because Bourdain has a presence in many different media today, his show will draw a large crowd and provide a boost to all restaurants in the area, as people will dine out before and after the show.
Santucci said, “I think more than anything it gives us a little bit of credibility.”
Since Red Haven is still very new, she hopes Bourdain’s name being attached to it will prompt people to check the restaurant — and its beef hearts — out.