Taste TC’s future at the Young Chefs Dinner


Rebecca Tranchell, Adam McMarlin, Adam Raupp, Eric Hansen, Michelle Rodriguez

On Sunday, March 9th at 6 PM The Cooks’ House is hosting an exciting dinner that will let you taste the future of Traverse City. It’s called the Young Chefs Dinner, and will feature five courses prepared by five up-and-coming Traverse City chefs for just $65.

Cooks’ House co-owner Jennifer Blakeslee explained, “When Eric & I moved here, we didn’t have anywhere to cook. It’s important for chefs without a kitchen of their own to have a chance to cook with each other, present their own food and show everyone what they can do.”

Rebecca Tranchell graduated from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in 2009. She worked at Alice Waters’ Cafe Fanny in Berkeley as assistant pastry chef and cooked at Green’s Restaurant in San Francisco. Rebecca was the executive chef of Om Cafe for their 1st year in business opened the Friends with Food food truck last summer of 2013. Demonstrating the flexibility that those in the culinary field in Traverse City often need to show in the winter, she currently works at Yen Yoga and Fitness.

Adam McMarlin grew up in the Detroit area and started working in the service industry at the age of 14. He attended college at Western Michigan University, spent some time traveling the country but it wasn’t until I moved to California in 2005 that he realized he wanted to dedicate his career to being a chef. He moved to Traverse City in 2011 to open The Bay Leaf and is really looking forward to is starting at The Cook’s House in the Spring.

Adam Raupp started at at fourteen with a job doing dishes at House of Flavors in his home town of Manistee. He’s now 32, and since that time he’s held many different positions in both the front and back of the house. He says it wasn’t until his first position as Sous-Chef that he started to take a good look at cooking as a career instead of simply a way to pay rent. He is a Teaching Assistant at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City and will resume his position as Sous Chef of Mission Table when it re-opens for the year in the spring.

Eric Hansen has been cooking professional for almost five years at the Wellington Street Market and the Cooks’ House. He is in his second year of culinary school at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Eric is currently the Sous-Chef at The Cooks’ House. 

Michelle Rodriguez is 26 and originally from Farmington Hills. If any of you are wondering if your college degree matters, she graduated with a dual major of Comparative Religion & Business Marketing from WMU before deciding that sales was not her calling. Instead, she gave the food industry a try and signed on to work at a catering company & food truck in Atlanta right out of college. She moved to Texas where she met the love of her life, Gabe Rodriguez (of Trattoria Stella). Michelle  moved to Chicago in 2012 to cook at Girl and The Goat for James Beard Award winning Chef Stephanie Izard and now cooks at Black Star Farms.

We asked what got them interested in cooking… 

Adam McMarlin told us, “I think I’ve always been interested in cooking. I can remember watching Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet after Sesame Street. My dad and I used to film our own cooking shows when I was like 3 or 4; he was a cook. I spent a lot of time with my grandma making sausage, meatballs and cookies when I was younger. Our Mom was a waitress at the time and my two brothers and I were home alone a lot of nights, so if we wanted to eat I had to cook. I think it’s something that has always been there for me, and one day it just clicked. The fact that I could actually make a career out of it is something I’m thankful for.”

Eric became interested in cooking when he took classes in junior high, and says that his teacher remains one of his favorites today for really motivating him.

For Rebecca it was simply love: “I always wanted to be hanging out with my big brother and doing whatever he did. We were both vegans for awhile. Hah :)”

Michelle said “I’ve always been super passionate about learning about food. I knew  that if I ever wanted to be good, I had to keep the inspiration coming, so I took the money I saved up from serving and traveled to six countries where I met talented chefs and tasted incredible food, documenting the foods that excited me & making the most out of my traveling experience.”

Adam Raupp explained, “My interest in cooking came at a very young age, just wanting to help my mom in the kitchen. Chefs through the years piqued my interest in cooking and helped me to realize just how creative an outlet the process could be.”

The dinner is a five course meal with a theme of “Peasant Food”, meaning that each of the the five chefs need to take a simple, classic meal and shape it as part of a high-end meal showcasing their talents.

About the meal and planning process, Eric said “Everyone seems really motivated and has a lot of knowledge about food. It will be an experience that I’ve never had before.”

Rebecca really enjoys the camaraderie of young, motivated and passionate cooks, and Adam Raupp added “I”m excited to see how our personalities work to create what I feel will be a very satisfying meal for our guests.”

Adam McMarlin told us he’s excited to be working together with new people. “We’re all collaborating to make this a really excellent dinner, and I think it is a really cool idea and a good way for all of us to get some exposure.”

Michelle Rodriguez said, “Jen & Eric have been incredible mentors, and I am honored they would ask me to be a part of a dinner showcasing our city’s young talent. I feel so grateful to be part of it and to get the chance to collaborate with the other young chefs and show the community what we can do!”

We wondered what these talented young chefs would do if someone were to drop a 30 seat restaurant in their laps.

Michelle Rodriguez shared, “I’d love to open a Asian or Mexican inspired restaurant. I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant that focuses on the beautiful local produce & meats that Traverse City has to offer. I’d do my own butchery, make my own spice mixes & pickles and delicious baked goods as well.”

Eric Hansen would open a vegetarian restaurant with lots of Indian options and said, “Traverse City has lots of vegetarians and a high demand for Indian food, and no other place in town would be even remotely similar.”

“A great New American style breakfast place in a kitschy, laid-back environment,” Rebecca Tranchell told us. “I guess it would be what my food truck is. Can someone still give me the capital?”

Adam McMarlin told us that he can only tell you after you sign his confidentiality agreement.

Rebecca shared the sentiment of all the young chefs: “I’d like to thank Eric and Jen for offering up their space and creating such an opportunity for us young bucks–and does. :)”

We encourage you to see what they’ve created and support the next generation of culinary artists in Traverse City. Call 231-946-8700 to make your reservations for the March 9th Young Chefs Dinner at The Cooks House today!