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Detroit Food Media Share Their Biggest Hopes for 2023

Can we do something

Nadia Nijimbere and husband/business partner Mamba Hamissi at Baobab Fare in New Center, Detroit, Michigan.
From left, Nadia Nijimbere and husband/business partner Mamba Hamissi at Baobab Fare in New Center.
Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

Detroit’s restaurant writers dish on their biggest surprises of 2022 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.

Melody Baetens, restaurant critic/reporter, The Detroit News: My hope is that owners and employees can find balance and harmony and that costs stop going haywire.

Courtney Burk, contributor, Eater Detroit: There are so many things I’d love to see change within the industry, having worked in it for so long: wages, benefits, representation in leadership positions, prioritizing mental health, work-life balance, sourcing local ingredients to support the local economy, people over profit, and honestly the list goes on and on. The good news is that conversations to begin this change often happen over a shared meal — which the industry is ready to serve.

Serena Maria Daniels, Detroit City Editor, Eater: I hope that the spirit of community continues to inform how food and drink businesses operate in Detroit. For years since the city’s historic bankruptcy, we saw an influx of new-to-us restaurant styles, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we saw Detroiters’ true colors. Chefs opened up their kitchens to feed frontline workers or those facing food insecurity, others like Baobab Fare — which opened at the height of uncertainty in February 2021 — stepped in when dining rooms closed and offered their spaces to aspiring chefs wanting to make a name for themselves, and establishments begin to sell pantry items (and even toilet paper) to members of the community who’d grown to rely on those places for everyday essentials. Let’s hope that with our new “normal,” we’re not reverting back to the same ol’, tired business models that extract from communities rather than contribute to their well-being.

Lyndsay Green, restaurant and dining critic, Detroit Free Press: My biggest hope is that as chefs and restaurateurs mastermind new concepts, they do so authentically. Too often, I see really talented people draw from experiences in places like New York City and Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and try to copy-and-paste those business models locally. But Detroit is a unique place with its own identity and special needs. I’d love to see future business owners lean into that and create establishments tailored to Detroiters.

Mark Kurlyandchik, editorial director, Frame: That all the pandemic-driven supply chain issues, labor shortages, and inflationary pressures (not to mention sickness!) ease enough so that industry leaders can once again focus not just on its survival — as has been the case since 2020 — but look to ways to improve the industry for the sake of all who toil in this beautiful, maddening space.

Mickey Lyons, contributor, Eater Detroit: I’d like to see a return to civility towards restaurant workers in 2023. They’ve taken the brunt of abuse from people angry or anxious about pandemics and inflation-related price increases, and the mental health crisis in the restaurant industry is pretty severe. Along those lines, I’d like to see more mental health support for restaurant workers.

Carlos Parisi, founder, host, Aunt Nee’s, Sandwich Talk podcast: We used to have so many approachable restaurants, with very budget friendly options. I’d love to see more bang for your buck options in our city. However, economically speaking, it may be a struggle for us all in coming years unless something changes.

John Reyes, contributor, Eater Detroit: For the long run, I’m hoping that sustainability — particularly sourcing and reducing food waste — becomes a fundamental part of doing business. Even loftier goal: can we figure out tipping?!?!