Allie Lyttle, chef of Ann Arbor’s Standard Bistro & Larder, dishes on career advice, her Food Network cameo and her favorite way to spend New Year’s Eve.
By Michelle McAllister
Featured photo by Viviana Pernot
Since SEEN last talked to chef Allie Lyttle a year and a half ago, she’s been quite busy. After leaving Detroit’s Parks and Rec diner in May 2018, she put her energy into her company, Ellie L’s Catering and Culinary Experiences, which creates unique, customizable experiences for food-lovers in their own homes. She also did a multi-week brunch residency at Hamtramck’s Revolver this spring before starting her current gig — as the executive chef at Ann Arbor’s The Standard Bistro & Larder — in July.
We recently caught up over brunch at her restaurant.
You recently updated the menu at The Standard Bistro & Larder. What was your inspiration? We decided to move from a heavy French influence to a more New American direction. We are a whole-animal butchery shop and nearly 100 percent of our menu items are sourced from within 100 miles of the restaurant.
I recently bought a lot of summer-end crops, so you can expect pickled vegetables through the winter. Our winter menu is in progress and you will see heartier dishes, like a Rock N’ Rye brisket hash, instead of our summer chicken hash on our brunch menu. For the spring menu, I’m really looking forward to adding ramps, scapes and tomatoes into our dishes.
How do you make the “work/life balance” work? I don’t think it exists. You make a choice. I do something every day that I love to do, but when I am home, I’m home. I trust my team to handle it.
What are your favorite local restaurants, besides yours, of course? I like the consistency of Mani (Osteria and Bar). Miss Kim is amazing; Spencer and Cardamom are also some of my favorite places.
Since you were last in a restaurant setting, have you seen more women working in the kitchen? Not really. We need a new influx of women. You see the same women moving restaurants for new opportunities. We are about 40 percent women in this kitchen and all the staff are great and work well together.
Any travel influences in your cooking? [When I travel] I make spreadsheets and my day revolves around meals and snacks. Portland, Oregon, was one trip that influenced some of my menu items.
Do you cook at home? Do you have a signature dish? Sometimes. My husband recently wanted some sausage soup, so I made that, but I eat a lot of cereal and so much cheese. Often time my signature dishes just evolve. When I was working at Parks & Rec, which shares a kitchen with Republic, the chef from Republic gave me leftover beef brisket and cornbread. I turned this into a brunch dish that included a runny duck egg and our customers loved it.
You were on “Chopped” in the past. What was the craziest ingredient you got in one of your baskets? There were a couple, since I made it through two rounds. I got Avocado Toast – soggy bread and all – black rice and a cooked lamb kabob. You literally have 30 seconds to formulate what you are going to cook before you start.
What is the best piece of advice that you got in your career? “Keep going.” When I doubted myself, I had mentors that told me to keep trying. They had faith in me.
What is your favorite New Year’s Eve tradition? It usually involves drinking Bourbon and closing the kitchen. When I get home around 2 am, my husband and I usually have a charcuterie platter and some wine to bring in the new year.