It takes 36 hours to make the one of the most popular dishes of the moment at the Apparatus Room — the French veal tenderloin — and that’s not accounting for the finishing and plating. But for Thomas Lents, the meticulous chef at the helm of the Eater Award-winning Detroit Foundation Hotel restaurant, every second of preparation counts toward the final product.
The dish is a modern take on a classic French stew called veal blanquette. “One of the philosophies that I have a the Apparatus Room is taking some classic techniques the cooks in Detroit maybe haven’t seen or haven’t done it a long time,” he says. “I want to make sure that they’re able to see those things.”
In this version of veal blanquette, Lents eschews the stew in favor of a whole slice of veal surrounded by bright spring vegetables, flowers, and a bath of blanquette sauce. The meat itself is rendered incredibly tender and flaky almost like piece of fish through cooking at a low temperature with a sous vide machine for 36 hours. During the finishing and plating process all the ingredients are then glazed in a rich combination of butter and juices from the slow cooked meat. “I think it really speaks of spring,” Lents says.
The Apparatus Room prepares between 36 and 40 whole veal chuck tenders a week for the dish and sells roughly 30 the sliced veal tenderloins per day when the item is in season. Although the restaurant uses primarily Michigan-raised veal, the dish is in such high demand that the Apparatus Room occasionally has to use imported veal from France, Lents says.
Looking into his second year at the Apparatus Room, chef Lents is always looking for ways to improve the restaurant whether that be through building even more relationships with local farms or developing an in-house butcher shop in the basement. “I was taught at a very early stage in my culinary career that greatness is really in consistency. Anybody can make one thing great once. It’s the consistency that you can produce at that level all the time and that’s what I’m trying to do here,” he says. “I want this restaurant to be around for decades, not just the hot new thing. So we’re going to continue to push to produce better quality food.”
Lents and sous chef Austin Covert invited Eater into the kitchen at Chef’s Table — the Apparatus Room’s 12-seat sister restaurant — for a step-by-step look at the making of the French veal tenderloin. Take a peek at the process a captured by photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard below.