Chef Jeff Rose, owner of C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill in Wolverine Lake, shares how to make smokehouse gumbo and other recipes.
By Allison Jacobs
Photography by Viviana Pernot
When Jeff Rose opened C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill in 2013, he took the job seriously. He set out to create his own recipes from scratch, filling his Ferndale neighborhood with the scents of smoked ribs and brisket.
Rose credits his past educational experiences for his work ethic. After graduating from Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business, he quickly excelled, moving from dishwasher to line cook, and eventually earning the title of sous chef at the former Farmington Hills restaurant, Tribute.
Rose, 45, spent six years learning from Tribute’s former executive chef, Takashi Yagihashi, who became a mentor for Rose. He then spent time in the kitchen at Iridescence at the MotorCity Casino, followed by Big Rock Chophouse in Birmingham.
His next big break came after an introduction to TV personality and chef Michael Symon. Symon’s Roast in downtown Detroit hired Rose, who was the opening chef when Roast earned the Detroit Free Press Restaurant of the Year award in 2009.
After a stretch of success stories, Rose ventured on his own. He enlisted the help of friends Rachel and Richard Mandell, his business partners at C.A.Y.A Smokehouse Grill.
“I never really wanted to own my own restaurant until about five or six years ago — I was happy just being the chef, and then this happened,” Rose says.
While it took nearly two months to select the restaurant’s name, the three finally decided on C.A.Y.A., an acronym for “Come As You Are.” The name accurately depicts the restaurant’s image — unpretentious and welcoming to all.
Since C.A.Y.A.’s opening, it has earned a solid reputation for falling-off-the-bone baby back ribs, tender brisket and satisfying pulled spaghetti squash, yet the menu goes beyond pairing meats with side dishes. “C.A.Y.A. is a smokehouse, not a barbecue joint,” Rose explains.
Rose adds his own twist, offering customer favorites such as zesty gumbo and maple glazed salmon. Brunch is also a delight, featuring savory crab cake or brisket eggs benedict, in addition to sugar-dusted waffles and fluffy pancakes.
Rose lives for the challenge of adjusting his menu with the seasons. His fall/winter rendition focuses more on comfort foods, while the spring/summer version highlights crisp greens and aromatic herbs.
As a self-proclaimed pioneer of the sustainable food movement, Rose befriended a local butcher and discovered a farm in Okemos specializing in seafood. “It makes it fun to have to be creative with what you have on hand,” says Rose, who drives a few miles down the road for his produce at Tollgate Farms & Gardens in Novi.
Rose also takes pride in food and beverage pairings, tapping local Michigan beer and mixing hand-crafted cocktails. He’s a strong proponent of complementing smoked meats with a robust glass of wine, offering a rotating selection of local and international bottles.
Despite his reputation as a talented restaurateur, Rose wears many hats. While he often acts as director in the kitchen, he also plays the roles of manager, prep cook, host and even dishwasher.
Rose is also taking his cuisine on the road with a C.A.Y.A. food truck. The mobile kitchen is ideal for weddings, birthday parties or even a casual office lunch. The truck can be found cruising around the suburbs and will soon land a spot at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.
When he occasionally removes his chef hat, Rose hits the ski slopes or takes long bike rides to clear his head. He aims to venture overseas at least once a year and has his sights set on Italy next.
Traveling often inspires ideas, which leads him to new territory in the restaurant business. Though unable to disclose details, Rose shares that he’s working on a new wood-fired cuisine concept.
Even with new opportunities on the horizon, Rose stays grounded, always encouraging his guests to take C.A.Y.A.’s message to heart. “I like the true hospitality of making people feel welcome,” he says, “and serving them a good meal.”
Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts
2 lb. Brussel sprouts
cut in half
¼ cup bacon, diced
¼ cup onion, diced
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In large pan, render the bacon. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the Brussel sprouts and cook until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
2 cups green onion, diced
2 cups Spanish onion, diced
2 cups celery, diced
3 Tbsp. gumbo file
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt and pepper mix
½ cup brown roux
3 cups tomato, diced
4 cups chicken stock
12 oz. raw chicken, cut into
20 raw shrimp, cleaned
7 sausage, cut into coins
In large pan, sauté the onions, peppers and celery. Add dry spices and cook until flavor is released. Mix in the brown roux. Add tomato and cook for two minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer until smooth, about five minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the chicken and shrimp. Add the sausage. Cook until hot. Add 1 cup of the gumbo sauce. Simmer for about three minutes. Do not reduce. Serve over rice.
C.A.Y.A Smokehouse Grill
1403 S. Commerce Road, Wolverine Lake