Q&A with Brent Courson, Gratzi's Executive Chef

Brent Courson is the Executive Chef for Mainstreet Ventures, the company that owns and operates Midland’s newest restaurant, Gratzi. Recently, we had a chance to sit down and catch up with Brent and talk to him about food, business and Midland, Michigan.

Q: Can you tell us about how you got started in the food industry?

A: I got my start like so many do, washing dishes and bussing tables as a summer job.

Q: And you fell in love?

A: It was very easy for me. I like to say that nothing is better than a big, beautiful, busy restaurant. Food and hospitality always offer a unique challenge, and your day can go by very quickly. From washing dishes, I moved up to prep and pantry cook, and I was fortunate enough to have been born in Livonia, Michigan, the home of the renowned Schoolcraft College. When I attended, there were six Certified Master Chefs associated with the school, a number unmatched in the nation.

Q: How did your company decide on Gratzi as its next project?

A: Well, when the opportunity came to partner with Shaheen Development, we saw a chance to really do something unique. We wanted to pair the restaurant with the space in which it was being developed.

Q: What has been the most exciting thing about this project being in Midland?

A: I was so completely and pleasantly surprised by the competency level of our new hires here. Our staff is incredibly talented, and it has been just fantastic to find so many people so well qualified and so local. There are so many great employment candidates in this region. That and the space, the setting are very exciting for me. Gratzi is going to be a place where you can come for high end dining, or a place where you come for pizza and a drink in a great atmosphere.

Q: Your voice rose when you mentioned the pizza. Care to elaborate?

A: Our pizza, and more specifically our dough, is going to be a centerpiece. We are very proud of it. We have a whole cooler for dough, it goes through a four day fermentation process. You can’t rush that kind of quality, and you can’t fake it. So I’m more than a little excited to feature it on the menu.

Q: What do you do to get your mind off cooking?

A: Family, definitely! The most important things are family and work for me. I have a wife and three kids, and that’s how I like to unwind. I love being active with them. As prone as this industry is to gobble up your time, it makes the time off even better and I enjoy it.

Q: What is your favorite thing to cook just at home?

A. Easy — Crispy chicken thighs, slow cooked and enough for the whole family. I like the skin nice and crispy and that is exactly what I want at home. Always my go to, but I also can’t wait to spend time cooking outside in the nice weather soon.

Q: What is on the food frontier for you? What gets you excited to learn about or execute?

A: It has to be the propagation of ethnic food and cooking. There will always be regionality in American cuisine, but it is so awesome to see how much world cooking is coming here. I’m passionate about opening horizons in the food culture and bringing worldly opportunities in cuisine to the Mid-Michigan doorstep.

Q: Have any final thoughts?

A: I just want to emphasize that Gratzi is going to be a flagship example of where I hope and where I believe that restaurants are headed. We are focusing on quality food made from quality ingredients, and that matters! The good thing is that it is also being recognized by the community at large, more and more. That’s important.
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