Six underrated chefs in Greater Grand Rapids

The Everton Benedict at Speak EZ Lounge

Every town has their celebrity chefs. These are the popular industry people who hang out together and share restaurant war stories with each other. Everybody knows them and expects them to put out great food every day. One of the other local publications recently did a story about 10 of these chefs, but I want to talk about “the other guys”.  These are six chefs who I think are doing a great job, but are never going to get written about.  You don’t hear a ton about them or their restaurants.  They are the underdogs.  These are my celebrity chefs.

Gnocchi at Marco New American Bistro

Mark McNamara: Marco New American Bistro. With a menu that varies from liver and onions to sweetbreads and foie gras, Chef McNamara is probably the least known, but most consistent chef in the area in the execution of his food. He has quietly been making excellent food in the Forest Hills for several years.

Mary Hunter: Vintage. Also quietly making noise in Forest Hills is Mary Hunter, the executive chef at Vintage. Although she is probably more well known in the local restaurant industry than many chefs, her restaurant is not. Vintage at the Watermark Country Club is one of the closest restaurants that Grand Rapids has to fine dining. This 44 seat restaurant and Mary’s work go unnoticed on a regular basis. Serving seafood and prime meats, Vintage is a great place for a date night. Book your next date night meal here and show your significant other that you are wise in the ways of romantic dinners.

Prime cut cowboy ribeye at Vintage.

Ukjea Cho: Jaku Sushi. Most people can’t pronounce his name, let alone know who he is. Chef Cho and his wife Suna recently opened their 2nd sushi restaurant on the north side of of town near Celebration Cinemas North. Although we have a lot of sushi places in town, I really feel that a Chef Cho’s skill and creativity  really show through in his work. I used to bring him photos of challenging sushi dishes that were not made locally, and he would whip them up for me without difficulty. He knows his fish! Jaku Sushi is my Sushi go to in Grand Rapids, and it is increasingly the go to of others as well.

Cannonball at Jaku Sushi

Michael Alexander: Honey Creek Inn. A little off the beaten path between Grand Rapids and Rockford (sort of) is Honey Creek Inn. If they were located downtown they would be a place you would hear a lot more about, but the people of Cannonsburg are well acquainted with this restaurant. Chef Alexander just completed a successful 4 week seasonal run of Polish Food that you can’t find anywhere in Grand Rapids. Chef Alexander could be an executive at any of the more popular local restaurants, but is quietly staking out his success on a less traveled country road just east of town.

Halibut at Honey Creek Inn

Joaquin Acamapichtli: Fuego: A Fusion Kitchen. You definitely don’t hear a lot about Chef Joaquin because his restaurant is located 30 minutes north of Grand Rapids in Grant, Michigan. Creating amazing Mexican/Asian fusion dishes, or whatever his fancy is for the day, Chef Joaquin if a big fish in a small pond up in the northlands. I don’t know that the city of Grant can hold him forever as it is only a matter of time before people realize what they are missing. In the meantime, make the drive to Grant and check him out.

Lambchops at Fuego: A Fusion Kitchen

Scotty Peterson: Speak EZ Lounge. Chef Peterson is easily one of the most underrated chefs in Grand Rapids. Serious about his craft and always sporting his 10,000 megawatt smile, it’s hard not to like Scotty and the work that he does. The team at Speak EZ Lounge is always putting out creative food selections with one of the strongest Vegan menus in the city. Chef Peterson, as the kitchen’s team captain, can always be relied upon for a solid culinary experience.

These are my six culinary “Mystery Men” in the greater Grand Rapids area. If you have not had the good fortune to try their food, shake your tail feathers and get out there. You don’t know what you are missing.



  1. I COMPLETELY agree with 3 of these, and the other three are now on my must visit list. I do just want to give a shout out to Chef Cho. That is the only place that we routinely go “off menu” and ask the chef to guide our experience. He has yet to disappoint. He creates rolls that easily could compete with sushi restaurants 4-5x more expensive in major destination cities, but chooses to keep it affordable in Grand Rapids!! We are VERY lucky to have him!

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