#JadoreExclusive Sit Down with Gather Detroit
After a year of anticipation, Gather is almost ready to open their doors and bring "gritty fine dining" to Eastern Market.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with 2 of the 3 owners, Kyle Hunt and Nate Vogeli, to learn more about their unique concept and future plans for the restaurant.
Even though it was my first time meeting Nate and Kyle, the interview felt like chatting with old friends. They are welcoming and care more about bringing the community together and the quality of their food than the facade of fancy rigmarole. Gather intends to simplify the dining process while serving complex flavors, in untraditional packaging.
Read or listen to our most candid #JadoreExclusive to date and keep your eyes peeled for Gather's unannounced opening coming on an unannounced date.
Need to Know
Who // Lea Hunt, Kyle Hunt and Nate Vogeli
What // Gather Detroit
Where // 1454 Gratiot Ave, Detroit, MI 48207
When // soon
J'adore: How did you link up with your partners Lea and Nate?
Kyle: "Lea is my wife - Nate tells the story better than I do."
Nate: "I knew Lea’s older brother since like eighth grade. So I’ve known her and her family for quite a long time. I lived with her brother in college for a couple years and our families got to know each other through church activities- family friends basically. I moved out of state for a while. When I came back, I ran into her brother at a wedding. He said if you’re back home you have to meet up with my sister, she’s in Detroit trying to open something.
We had cocktails at Two James- didn’t try anything off the start we just started hanging out. They wanted to open something like a restaurant, they were looking at ice cream at the time. Then I came along and all of our skill sets matched up and here we are."
J'adore: What inspired Gather?
Kyle: "Kind of what we said, it kind of just happened. We came to Eastern Market and found this space, we knew we couldn’t call it Gather and not have the seats the way they are. It just naturally came about."
Nate: "We’ve paid attention to feedback and input as we’ve done stuff. We’ve done quite a few pop ups where we’ve had everyone sitting at long tables. We wanted to bring that into the restaurant. I’ve always wanted to work with wood fire, when I lived in Montana I got to do it a little out there- it’s fascinating to me.
All these elements came together, Gather was never this one idea for a restaurant- it’s always been how can make a restaurant we all love."
J'adore: What made you choose this location in Eastern Market?
Kyle: "We tried a lot of spaces, Eastern Market happened to work out. The landlord liked our story, out of a lot of different people that could have got the space he chose us."
J'adore: From what your website says, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on community. How will you make sure community is factored into the restaurant's atmosphere?
Nate: "We’re going to be sourcing pretty much everything we can from the neighborhood. There’s so many distributors and what not in the market, we can drive over there and get everything- vegetables, meat, even dry goods like napkins we’re going to be using Kay Foods. We want them involved at any step we can, use someone in the neighborhood."
Kyle: "Some distributors have been there for one hundred years. There’s so much family history, from the original owner passing it down to their kids and then their kids kids. It’s all right there."
J'adore: How has it been finding reclaimed treasures for the restaurant?
Kyle: "It’s been a lot of fun. All of the black you see on the bar and lining the kitchen is from Reclaim Detroit. It’s from old houses around Detroit, we got it and then burned it to give it a charred look. Going to meet the guy who owns Reclaim Detroit and seeing their story - now we can pass that story to our customers and guests. Our architect taught us how to build countertops and we made all of the countertops last week. Resourcing as locally as possible in that fashion with our materials is really important to us. Our chairs are from an old school in Detroit, they legitimately have names carved in the bottom. It’s cool to take that stuff and put it into a setting where it all flows together."
J'adore: From the idea to where you are now, what has that process looked like?
Nate: "It’s been equal amounts of waiting and hard work."
Nate: "Obviously budget plays into it. There’s been lots of times we’ve been like “Oh we can just buy it, or let’s figure out how to make it!” That’s been a part of us and just Detroit- it’s a city of engineers and line workers. If you can’t make it yourself, you don’t deserve to have it. That's been a big part of our process. We’re learning! It’s been so fun, we made all of these counter tops. We mixed the cement, laid the moulds, and poured them. It’s fascinating!
Kyle: And not giving up. There’s a lot of times when doubt creeps in, but the difference is not giving up. I don’t know how we are where we are. The last thing I remember is inviting 20 friends over to our apartment in New Center and then now we’re here having this interview. It’s been a whirlwind of time."
J'adore: How long has that process been?
Kyle: "One year, we got the building last March."
J'adore: On your website it says, “Portions of our dinner profits will be put toward Broth & Bread. We will serve warm, nutritious broth to the homeless and hungry in Detroit.” What will that look like, will you serve them in the restaurant?
Nate: "As soon as we get going and there’s food coming through here, we’re going to start using excess product or scraps to make really rich and nutrient dense broth. This is a small part of a bigger idea I have- to get more restaurants involved and create a bigger community to distribute to homeless, almost to have a mobile soup kitchen. It’s very simple, I think it’s very doable it’s just going to take a little bit of time."
J'adore: What are you most excited about Gather?
Kyle: "Not electrocuting ourselves anymore- since we started construction I’ve been electrocuted twice. Like we’ve said, we’ve been doing a lot of construction. I’m excited to get back into the food part of why we’re all doing this. I’m excited to come here and that’s our job- wait until we open at 4 o’clock and then people will come in and we get to entertain them. When people come into eat they’re generally happy, I’m excited for that. To entertain day in and day out."
Nate: "Yeah, I’m definitely excited to be in my home environment again- in the kitchen. Especially something that I have so much pride in and something I’ve put so much time and effort into making every little detail just right."
J'adore: What do you think your guests will be most excited about?
Kyle: "I think it’s going to be kind of bizarre at first, but the simplicity of everything. Our menu is going to be short. Our beer list is going to be short. Our wine list is going to be short and limited to what’s available. Instead of options, options, options we’re going to be honed in on simplicity. We’re going to have really good food and select items."
Nate: "We’re trying to simplify the restaurant experience. From walking into the door to getting your food- we want to make that process incredibly simple. So the menu is simple but when the plate gets to you it’s complex, it’s delicious food- hopefully- at least that’s what I’m planning on. We’re trying to wow people with simplicity."
J'adore: How do you want guests to use your space?
Nate: "What’s really unique about this place is that we’re dinner only."
Kyle: "It’s going to be bizarre because Saturdays we will be open for lunch- it’s a crazy concept."
J'adore: Okay, walk me through your concept
Nate: "So the concept is actually catering. It’s these pretty cool little boxes that come with like a great lunch. They have these homemade bread, it’s like daily roasted turkey and great sauces. We’ve done it for a few different businesses around. We’ve done it for Quicken and Comerica and Carhartt. We’ve made our name known in this sort of lunch game. We want to expand on that, and have the space available during the day as a community space- you would have to book it- for meetings and things like that. We love the idea of having two totally different things happening- that’s how we’re almost totally splitting up two different concepts."
Kyle: "Yeah, and the business side of things- we don’t need to be open, so we can have 300 lunches ready and out to the city by noon. Then we’ll clean up whatever and open for dinner at 4 o’clock. From a business standpoint, we want to make sure we’re getting our name out to 300 people. We don’t want to wait for them to come here, we can go to them. Which is really nice, everyone is looking for lunch options Downtown. With it being that close, we have to take advantage of it."
Nate: "We’ve been throwing around the term “gritty fine dining”, what we think Detroit’s fine dining scene should be."
Kyle: "We don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, that’s our biggest thing. When you go to fine dining restaurants and look around everyone seems serious and proper."
Nate: "Being who we are we’re all kind of neat freaks so it’s going to be nice, but the finishes and stuff- it’s kind of gritty in here. I think that mash up of things is what’s going to give us our feel. Our vision is people come a couple times a week. It’s not a special, hoity toity kind of place."
Kyle: "It’s not going to be a place you save for your anniversary or a special occasion- you’re not going to have to splurge. We’re going to have nice things and then we’re going to have burgers and beer and you can come hangout at the four-seater bar. We want the guys from down the street or whoever to come here because they didn’t feel like making dinner."
J'adore: When will Gather open?
Kyle: "We don’t have a set date. I think when we do open, we’ll just open. Quietly open our doors - maybe 3 o’clock we’ll open that day, who knows?"
J'adore: So you don’t have anything special planned for the opening?
Kyle: "No, that’s not us at all. We’re going to do a few dinners for family, friends and people who supported our kickstarter campaign- we’re not a grand opening kind of crew."
Nate: "I’ve been thinking about that too. If we did and say 300 people tried to show up that night we wouldn’t be able to do it. There’s literally 34 seats in here. If 100 people show up on our first day, we’ll be slammed!"
Kyle: "If a person walks in on our first day we’re all going to freak out. We’ll jump over and hug the first person, crying and puking “Why are you doing here, how did you hear about this.” Every person that came to our pop ups it was like- “what are you doing here, who invited you?” It’s still very bizarre. Like we said- we just invited 20 friends over and now we’re getting liquor licenses and waiting to open."
J'adore: Will you have outdoor seating?
Kyle: "We’re working with the city to get something small set up- like an eight seater on the sidewalk. Feature expansions- there’s a rooftop but that’s down the road. One step at a time."
J'adore: Where are some of your favorite places to eat in the city?
Nate: "That’s a big reason Gather was born- there are great places like Selden, but they feel reserved for special occasions."
Kyle: "I really like the Farmer’s Hand and I like the Royce. The Farmer’s Hand- the owner Rohani Foulker, that’s what we want to be. You walk in and she’s there and she says hi and she’s happy. She’s the face of the business and she owns the business with and Kiki Louya. You can tell there’s something different about that place."
Nate: "I think we’re going to fill a little bit of a void in the food scene here- we’re not a bar and we’re not a fancy place. It’s a nice place you can come and feel comfortable everyday of the week. From the places I’ve been in Detroit, there’s lots of divey places and certainly lately a lot of nice places but there’s not a lot of places where you can spend $20 on dinner and get a good meal."
J'adore: Out of Detroit icons past or present, who would you freak out about serving?
Nate: "Tim the Toolman Taylor. If Tim Allen walked in the door I would flip. I really would go nuts. I would probably call him Santa though."
Kyle: "I would want Eminem to come here - then we would have him rap on stage."
J'adore: Is there anything else you want J’adore readers to know?
Nate: "I hope people come check us out and give us the opportunity to serve them. We’ve spent more than enough time here to call this our home- I think that’s what this is more than just a restaurant to us and more than a place we’re just going to have a job. We’re going to be the staff here, if you want to come to a place that’s the new mom and pop shop- that’s who we are. Everyone’s welcome, we’ll do our absolute best to remember you."