Chef Garrison Price brings his worldly culinary influences to Birmingham with his new restaurant in the Daxton Hotel
By Markham Heid
Photography by Darrel Ellis
Since it opened in 2017, The Apparatus Room — the restaurant-and-bar space in Detroit’s Foundation Hotel — has been a star of the downtown dining scene. And so there was much excitement when the Aparium Hotel Group, the Chicago-based company behind the Foundation and The Apparatus Room, announced plans to develop the Daxton Hotel in Birmingham, complete with its own chic and ambitious restaurant, called Madam.
On April 1, both the Daxton and Madam welcomed their first guests. Helmed by Chef Garrison Price, an Illinois native whose resume includes stints at some of the country’s finest culinary outposts, the restaurant “is the culmination of a lot of my experiences,” says Price, 38. “I’m looking forward to showcasing some great food that will invoke the senses, not be too stuffy, and hopefully introduce people to some new flavor profiles.”
Price’s culinary toolkit is well stocked. As a kid, he taught himself to cook, mostly by reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, and preparing meals for his family. He began his professional career in Chicago during the early 2000s, eventually spending several years as sous chef at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel. From there he crisscrossed the country, serving in posts at award-winning restaurants in Portland, Oregon; Kauai, Hawaii; Las Vegas; and New York City, where he was executive chef at the acclaimed Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. He also worked for superstar-chefs Jose Andres and also Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whom he helped open nine new restaurants around the world, from Mexico City to Dubai.
Price says that all of those experiences and culinary influences have informed his menu at Madam. “When I worked in Portland, I got connected to where our food comes from,” he says. “And then in Kauai, where there’s this endless summer and these sort-of microclimates, I learned about how the sugar-cane plantations had decimated the soil, and about the importance of regenerative agriculture.” He also has experience working in kitchens that prepare regional Chinese, Mexican, French and Northern Italian cuisine. Asked to describe his menu at Madam, Price says he’s tempted to call it “new American,” but only because that term is so all-encompassing. “Really that could describe almost anything,” he jokes. “When I use it, I mean I’m drawing on various influences from all the places I’ve worked.”
Madam’s recent dinner menu provides a snapshot of Price’s culinary dexterity. Serrano ham fritters sit alongside a foie gras terrine and house-baked sourdough; there’s a pizza topped with salmon gravlax; a leek fondue galette; a tagliolini made with cockles; and a dry-aged duck for two. (The restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch.) Though not every ingredient in his kitchen is from Michigan, Price says he sources from small local producers whenever possible. “We’re really focused on connecting with farmers and forming relationships with local purveyors, and knowing where our products come from.” One example: Madam has been sourcing flour from a collective in Traverse City.
Price, who had a firmly established reputation in NYC, acknowledges that the move to Michigan may seem unexpected to some, but his ties to the state run deep: He spent his childhood summers in Saugatuck, and his mom, who’s from Shelby Township, still lives in Metro Detroit. Price, who resides in Birmingham, says that being near her — and also reevaluating his life amid the pandemic — made relocating appealing. “To be a part of a smaller community, and to be a little closer to family, and to carve out a world-class restaurant here in Birmingham,” he says, “all of that made this feel like the right choice at this point in my life.”
Price says that he’s felt very welcomed by his new hometown, and that he hopes Madam will feel equally approachable. “I wanted this to be a place where you can get the dry-aged duck for two with foie gras — something worth splurging on — or a cheeseburger at the bar,” he says. “At the same time, I want to have things on the menu that are made with local and sustainable ingredients, and that people can feel good about eating.”
Onion Soup Tart with Comte Cheese Recipe
- 1 cup organic flour (and a few extra tablespoons for dusting/rolling)
- ½ cup rye flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter (frozen, stick)
- 1 and ¼ cup comte cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 cup caramelized onions
Shred or cube butter and toss until coated with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup shredded cheese, and salt.
Add water and vinegar and mix until just staying together and no loose flour is left over.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes until the butter is firm.
Using as little flour as possible, roll out the dough to .25 inches thick and then fold it over in thirds, like a letter.
Repeat this last step once more. Chill again for five minutes.
On parchment paper, roll out to .25 inches thick and reserve chilled until needed.
Place onions in the center of the dough and spread to 1.5 inches from the edge of the dough.
Fold the edges over the onions, top with the remaining ¼ cup cheese, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.