On June 30, a new restaurant concept, for Michigan, is debuting in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. A little bit punk rock and a little bit Zen, the Vigilante Kitchen + Bar is poised to be the first eatery of its kind in the area where Midwestern cuisine is served up alongside recovery support for its’ staff.
Located at 644 Selden Street in the former Smith & Co. space, Vigilante Kitchen + Bar is the brainchild of executive chef Aaron Cozadd, in partnership with Michigan-based Mission Restaurant Group.
The idea for Vigilante Kitchen + Bar was sparked in an unexpected setting back in 2012: a jail cell in Oakland County, where Cozadd found himself locked up after a second DUI. Recognizing the need to redirect his mind, body and spirit, as well as his career, he envisioned a space where these transformations could become a reality — for himself and for others.
“For as long as I can recall, the restaurant industry has carried a dark negative stigma,” said Cozadd in a statement. “At Vigilante Kitchen + Bar, we’re going to illuminate this issue by offering a supportive program for those struggling with addiction.”
Chef Cozadd’s core mission is to help industry workers struggling with addiction by providing practical resources and guidance to aid them in achieving positive personal growth while advancing their culinary skills. Benefits offered to support the staff’s journey towards recovery include onsite recovery meetings, pre-shift meditation sessions, access to addiction counseling, assistance with fitness programs, and health insurance coverage for all full-time employees.
“I’ve found that the best way to change my addictive mindset is through structured and consistent daily actions, the strongest recovery is when these pursuits become your lifestyle, and I want to help others on the same path,” added Cozadd, who’s also an ordained Dharma teacher at Dharma Gate Zen Center in Troy. To that end, the staff will have breaks for “five minutes of Zen” during shifts, and more.
“We were inspired by Aaron’s passion for supporting those in the industry who wanted to stay in hospitality but were struggling with addiction,” said David Ritchie, president of Mission Restaurant Group. “We’re excited to support Aaron with the resources he needs to create a unique dining experience for guests, and an environment to help our employees thrive.”
Vigilante Kitchen + Bar will feature Midwestern classics with a twist, such as Pho-ken Noodle Soup. This dish takes the familiar comfort of chicken noodle soup and elevates it with refined classical French culinary techniques, infusing it with the vibrant flavors and presentation style of Vietnamese pho. This allows the guest to experience the revealing of layered flavors as they enjoy the dish.
“I find that Asian ingredients build layers of complex flavor,” said Cozadd, who studied with chefs from across Asia at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. “Japanese ingredients for deep umami base notes, Chinese and Korean ingredients for bold middle range spices, and Thai and Malaysian ingredients for finishing tastes with bright citrus and herbs. All these flavors unfold as you’re eating… it’s kind of a ride!”
Dishes will include Szechuan hot chicken bao, Szechuan spareribs, open-faced crab Rangoon, ahi Wellington, koji braised short rib, yuzu thyme chicken, XO lobster tail and an A5 Miyazakigyu.
Chef Cozadd added, “I’d like the idea of Ichi-go ichi-e (one moment, one encounter) to be carried throughout the menu, space and service. To emphasize with each guest experience, the precious nature of the everyday moments we spend with the people we care about.”
Adjacent to Vigilante Kitchen + Bar, Nain Rouge Brewery will be crafting a selection of beers exclusively served at the restaurant. Cozadd and brewer Dave Hale are collaborating on a Szechuan Saison, a black-sesame porter and a lychee cherry blossom blonde. Additionally, the Saison and blonde will be available upon opening. They will also develop non-alcoholic brews that mirror the flavor profiles of their alcoholic counterparts.
“While it may seem counter intuitive, it was important to me that Vigilante Kitchen + Bar serves alcohol. A person in recovery who decides to stay in the industry will inevitably need to work around alcohol. At Vigilante Kitchen + Bar we focus on building a strong internal environment to which the external environment becomes inconsequential. You can only avoid the wine aisle for so long.” Cozadd added.
The staff of Smith & Co.’s, including Chef de Cuisine Jermaine Mills, are staying on with the new restaurant concept.
The interior design is being transformed by Patrick Thompson Design, which is in Detroit.
“Chef Aaron’s early concept for Vigilante Kitchen was so unique that we could easily envision how the restaurant would look,” said Patrick Thomson, principal, Patrick Thompson Design. “It’s been an amazing experience to help bring his vision of bold punk rock, love of graphic novels and the tenets of Buddhism to life.”
The dining room seats 100 guests, with an additional 15 seats at the bar and 40 on the patio. Hours of operation will be Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.