Take the time to find your ‘why’: Paul Doyle



Paul Doyle served on the Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education for eight years. He often talks to students in career and goal setting sessions.

Students might talk to Doyle about what they want to be. A basketball player. A nurse. A teacher.

Doyle, an organizational performance consultant and educator in the healthcare sector, would agree that positions like these are meaningful or valuable.

“But I would switch the discussion back to ‘All right, outside of all of that — what is it that you want your life to be able to provide for you? Let’s talk about that. What would it take to get to that kind of position in life? What would you like to experience? That’s more important than saying what you want to do.”

For Doyle, finding and nurturing your own personal “why” in almost any situation is key. Finding the ‘why’ continues to drive Doyle as he works as a consultant, educator, and community leader.

“What is your why? What is it all about? How are you going to get there? How are you going to do it?”

“If your ‘why’ isn’t strong enough, I’ll tell you, coming from Brooklyn to Michigan: if the why wasn’t strong enough…why bother?”


Doyle grew up in a Brooklyn, New York housing project. The youngest of five from a single parent household, he was the first to graduate from high school. After high school, he left Brooklyn to attend Ferris State University, and became the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but there was something that kept telling me what I would need when I got there,” said Doyle. “And what I mean by that is that I knew I would need the ability to communicate and interact with a multitude of diverse people, whether that was small towns or big cities. I would need to be able to build intentional relationships. I basically dove into communication, speech, sociology, and psychology — just to learn more about behavior, more about what drives people and why we do what we do, not knowing that eventually I would be working specifically in health care, which is pretty much all about people.”

After graduating from Ferris, Doyle actually wanted to pursue his passion for learning and human behavior through teaching and coaching. However, he went back to New York and used his finance minor to land a job in a hospital finance department. After five years in patient accounts, Doyle moved back to Michigan and continued working in the healthcare arena.

Today, Paul heads Paul T. Doyle & Associates, LLC, which supports the organizational performance of healthcare systems through leadership development, community engagement, and strategic planning; as well as diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence. He teaches as an adjunct at the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Grand Rapids, focusing on culture and medicine. His work often involves addressing health disparities.



“I think there is a variance in our world. We have a lot of disparities and gaps,” said Doyle. “Certain people have privilege that others don’t.”

Doyle stresses that uncovering the motivating ‘why’ of a patient or client is essential.

“…it’s not what you know, it’s how you find out what you need to know or want to know about something that’s more important.”

“When I work with physicians, the first line that I teach them is ‘what is it that I need to know about you that’s going to help me provide the quality care that you deserve?’ That’s totally different than ‘I heard that all you people do it this way. Or I read about it in a book. Is that true?'”

“In other words, if I was going to ask you about things I want to know about you, I’m not going to inquire or try to obtain that in a way that devalues you or discounts you. I’m going to actually engage in a way that empowers you and gives you value. That edifies and complements you.”

“Every patient or person that has a health issue, what they’re often thinking about more than anything else is, ‘How can I get back or how can I keep my quality of life? Will I still be able to golf? Will I be able to certain things with my family? Is my family going to be OK?'”

“That’s their why. ‘Why I came to see you today at this appointment is because I want to golf next week. I want to get back to what I want to do.’ But you need to take more time in understanding their why.”

Doyle also serves on a variety of community boards, including the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Hospice of Michigan, the March of Dimes, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. What’s his ‘why’ behind giving back to the community?

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As a youth in Brooklyn, Doyle participated in after school programs at community centers that were mainly supported by foundations. He participated in youth development, leadership, and music programs.

“I had support systems around my community that enabled me to be able to get on that track of getting out and going and launching my journey,” said Doyle. “I believe in the power of giving. I believe in the impact of being able to support working models that actually can produce measurable outcomes. And I believe foundations, especially community foundations, that’s key to their framework. That’s what they do.”

Without the youth programs at the Brooklyn community centers, Doyle doubts he would be where he is today. He credits these programs — and the unselfish people in his community — with helping to expand his world view and igniting his potential. They were but one key factor that helped him form a strong enough ‘why’.

“I knew why,” said Doyle. “I didn’t know how or what. I wanted to get to a place in life where I would have the ability to live a real quality life. And that’s important.”

The Inside Dish — Sherlock Holmes at the Grand Rapids Civic Theater


Man, I enjoy good live theatre. And I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.

So when I learned that the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre was sponsoring a one-hour after work Inside Dish to promote its upcoming performance of Sherlock Holmes from Sept. 6-21: I didn’t hesitate. I signed up to attend, pronto.

It fit my schedule. I was working downtown that day, so it would be easy for me to pop by, grab free off-street parking after 5, and hit the event at 5:30.

Lucky me, I backed into the sole on-street parking spot on S. Park Street at exactly 5:02. I could kill 15 minutes or so answering emails from the nearby Grand Rapids Public Library‘s free wifi before getting to the Inside Dish event 5 or 10 minutes early.

At 5:20, I walked a few hundred steps from the library to the theatre. Ruefully, I saw through the windows that a cocktail party with twenty or so people was already in full swing.

I’m not from Grand Rapids: I’m from Chicago. And I travel on business quite a bit. Even though I’ve lived here over 20 years, I perpetually feel out of the Grand Rapids cultural “everybody knows that” loop.

Make a mental note: in Grand Rapids, a 5:30 theatre event means 5:00. At 5:20, you’re late.

Got it.




A sign outside the theatre requested that I enter through the East Tower. Since I was on the north side of the building, looking in at the cocktail party, I walked east. There was no entry. No door. No nothing.

I went back to the north. I looked in at the happy partiers, puzzled. How did they get in?

I went to the west side of the building, where a sign read “East Tower”.

Again, I’m out of the loop. “East means West” must be a Grand Rapids thing.

I have only been to the Civic for a performance once before. It was a mid 1990’s performance of Inherit the Wind. I would have enjoyed the play immensely had it not been for one thing: the horrible, awful, you’ve-got-be-kidding-me seating.

I’m 6’1″, with a 36″ inseam. My bad 30something self arrived wearing a green suede miniskirt.

Back in the 1990’s, the row of seats in front of me at the Civic were so close that my knees were  nearly parallel with my shoulders when I kept my legs together. And my feet dangled a few inches off the ground. (Yes, really.)

Aside from looking idiotically awkward, it was nearly impossible to hold that crazy position for the duration of an entire play. And legally, I probably could have been arrested for indecent exposure if I sat with my legs spread in that miniskirt.

I activated my abs of steel to maintain the most ungainly position you’ve ever witnessed in public outside of a circus act. With stern resolve, I held this crazy pose for over two hours, with only a small break for intermission.

My weird pose and physical stamina gave my already hot date even raunchier ideas. But I felt sore and in no mood.





Later that night, I went home with only muscle cramps under a set of newly acquired six pack abs. After this sole Civic Theatre experience, I never went back to see another show. The performance was terrific: but here in the heart of ultra-conservative Furniture City, the theatre seating was an S&M fantasy camp nightmare.

But, hey: it’s almost 20 years later and I’m itching to see my beloved Sherlock. I figured in 2013, maybe things have changed. We’ve come a long way in few decades, right?


I learned in our one-hour tour that the theatre underwent a massive renovation in 2006. One of our tour guides, Dr. Nancy Dodge, assured me that the seats improved drastically.



Ever the skeptic, I insisted on checking this out myself. I sat in a middle section and felt thrilled.

My rear end is going to love Sherlock Holmes.

I could actually wear a miniskirt in these spacious, comfortable seats if I wasn’t so old now. Instead, I’ll plan on wearing something more modest. But I’ll still show up for Sherlock on the arm of one of Grand Rapids’ most handsome bachelors.


The rest of our tour was historically entertaining. We wandered through the cavernous basement, winding our way through a labyrinth of old stage props. I kept myself crouched, perpetually concerned about knocking my head on the low ceilings and pipes.

For about an hour, the tour group trooped around the theatre. The basement. The orchestra pit. A dressing room named after the late Julie Harris. And for our finale, we went up four flights to witness a vertigo-inducing view from one of the few remaining (but closed to the public) peanut galleries in the United States.

As our tour guide led us through the theatre, we’d be periodically interrupted by a costumed character in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes play. Watson in the basement. Holmes backstage. Moriarity in the balcony.

You know the scene: good, clean, cornball fun. Mugging for the camera and assorted silly hijinks. Schticky, cutesy, kitschy theatrics mixed in with local and national history.


I left with only one burning question: why is the East Tower on the West Side of the building?

None of the tour guides seemed to know. But I was assured that’s what it has always been called.

Yap. I’ll just add another “everybody knows that” to my giant heap of “that’s the way we do it around here.”

Twenty plus years, and I still don’t get this crazy town.

But I can personally vouch for the Civic’s comfy new seats. And I feel like I’m going to thoroughly enjoy some hot Sherlock Holmes action at the Civic this season.

And who knows? Maybe super-sleuth Sherlock will unlock the mystery of East Tower for us.


The SHERLOCK HOLMES FINAL ADVENTURE runs Sept 6-21, 2013. Tickets are available online: http://www.grct.org/memberoptions.html
Season Tickets Packages are completely flexible — You choose the shows and how many tickets for each show! Purchase a Season Ticket Package for our 2013|14 season now and pick your shows when you are ready! Not only will you enjoy considerable savings over our regular individual ticket prices, but there are many other perks available only to those who purchase a Season Ticket Package — priority seating, discounts to other Grand Rapids Arts organizations, savings on classes through the School of Theatre Arts, and more! Learn more about purchasing a Season Ticket Package.
Be sure to LIKE Grand Rapids Civic Theater on Facebook!









Sharing Good Times with Good Friends at Reserve Wine and Food – Tony Gates and Michelle McKormick




Location: 201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids 49503

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday; 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

Fare: Modern American cuisine, impressive wine list and cocktail selection, located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, offering a constantly changing menu that creatively reflects West Michigan.

Ambience: Clean contemporary meets urban chic. The atmosphere is fun, friendly and conversational.

Executive Chef: Matthew Green

Server: Josh Middleton

Phone: (616) 855-9463

Website: www.reservegr.com

Email: info@reservegr.com

Facebook: facebook.com/ReserveGR

Twitter: @ReserveGR




GRAND RAPIDS – In the latest installment of our “Breaking Bread” monthly series that spotlights some of the region’s finest restaurants, Stellafly sits down with WLAV-FM (96.9) Morning Show host Tony Gates and the effervescent Michelle McKormick for a special Restaurant Week Grand Rapids edition at Reserve Wine & Food. The special three-course meals for $25 continue as Restaurant Week runs through this Saturday at more than 65 locations (see all of the menus at experiencegr.com) in the area.

Gates, a longtime Grand Rapids radio personality, has spent 28 years at WLAV. His first stint there spanned a decade, before leaving to work in the record industry with such famed recording acts as Whitney Houston and The Grateful Dead. He later returned to WLAV, where he has been for the past 18 years.

McKormick has spent nearly three decades entertaining the masses on the local airwaves.

She is a big part of the WLAV Morning Show, which includes Uncle Buck (Ed Buchanon), imparting her unique sense of humor, and also hosts a regular segment on WJRW-AM NewsTalk 1340.

Our dinner conversation turns to the farm-to-table dining trend right from the start.




Michelle orders the market gazpacho with tomato, cucumber, onion, old bread and older vinegar, while Tony chooses the three young cheeses (dairy, goat, sheep) with honey, chutney and rice crackers.

Stellafly: Why is it important for us to know where our food comes from?

Michelle: I love the local farm-to-table thing. I know, ooh, it’s new, but I love the farm-to-table experience. I once made a mistake on-air of saying factory farms, saying ‘I’m tired of these factory farms.’ I had a guy who lives outside of town, he owns a farm, and he called me at the radio station and said, ‘I want you to come out here and experience eating your food 10 minutes away from the table.’ So, he showed me what it was like to do farm-to-table and I finally understood there are great West Michigan farmers here.

Tony: I think a lot of it is trendy these days and maybe more of a marketing campaign. I think, for me, it’s not o much knowing where my food comes from, because, if I have a craving for pineapple, I’m not going to get it in Hudsonville. Or something to that effect. But I do like the idea of supporting the local businesses.

I’ve always loved the concept of ‘let’s keep the money here’ and the cream will rise to the top. If it’s a good local restaurant and they have good food and they have a local flavor and they cater to people who like that, they’re going to be even more successful. I’m more about supporting the local operations, even if it’s an independently owned franchise. I try to take that into consideration.

Michelle: The beauty of Restaurant Week is maybe people who can’t afford to come out to these somewhat-expensive, high-end restaurants are getting a chance to see this type of food at a really great price. The $25 price is great for people who probably wouldn’t come out and spend the money and now they can.

Stellafly: Do you seek farm-fresh ingredients as part of your dining experience?

Tony: No, I look at that as an added treat, if you will. I look for somebody who knows what to do with the ingredients, and I think that Grand Rapids has gone through such a transformation of successfully catering to a younger population. Younger people have the disposable income, they don’t have the mortgages yet or the kids yet or the ties and they want to go out and spend their money and have a drink. I think that’s why the breweries and the craft beers are doing so well … and also to go eat.

It used to be that Grand Rapids catered to the frugal Dutch mentality that if you paid $8 for something, you had better get a big enough portion that you end up taking home something in a bag.

I think the younger people here demand a quality of life and I think the restaurants are on their list. There are more chefs and a better selection of restaurants than there has ever been, so, if there’s a freshness to it or a local element, that’s just a win-win.

Michelle: I have a bunch of chef friends. Fresh ingredients makes all the difference in a meal. Absolutely. Fresh rather than frozen. I think we’re getting better restaurants, fresher ingredients, better food here. I love the farmers markets. I use all of them – Fulton Street, the one on Plainfield, I’m just a big fan of fresh food.







Our main course offers up choices ranging from a grilled cheese gnocchi in tomato broth, cherry tomatoes and basil to chorizo verde sausage with frybread, grilled summer squash and braised beans to Bangs Island mussels with a sweet white miso and topped with ratatouille. Michelle orders the sausage, while Tony selects the mussels.

Stellafly: Do you base restaurant choices on farm-to-table offerings?

Michelle: I do. Grove is one of the best restaurants in town. I love the chefs that go to the local farmers markets, absolutely.

Tony: Apples can be grown on 7 Mile and be local, but they can also be sprayed and polished.

Michelle: You’re right.

Stellafly: Are you willing to pay more for a meal if it’s farm-to-table fresh?

Tony: I do if I’m a sucker. If it’s organic or free-range, does it taste any different? I’d like to believe that it does, but no.

Michelle: If you knew everything was from a Grand Rapids farm, though, you would go there, because it’s local.

Tony: No, not if I don’t believe it.

Michelle: Ohhh …

You’re talking to a guy here that hunts and kills his own food a lot. Probably 60 percent of what he eats is … from elk hunting, moose hunting, he has a freezer full of meat. That’s what he does. That’s his life. He eats the fish he catches. The majority of his meals he has slain. It’s the truth.

Tony: We were someplace last night at a restaurant downtown and risotto is a great dish, but the lobster risotto was $48.

Michelle: Uh-uh, no way.

Tony: I make a good living, thank you, but really, honestly?

Michelle: It’s not worth it.

Tony: Are you eating there because it’s a trendy restaurant or it’s local? Is the lobster local? I don’t think so.





The final course is a selection of desserts that includes assorted chocolate truffles, sweet-fried gnocchi with summer berries, mint and chevre or a Baltimore snowball. Michelle chooses the truffles, while Tony opts for the gnocchi.

Stellafly: Is Grand Rapids worthy of its growing reputation as a destination for foodies?

Michelle: Everything’s kind of exploded in Grand Rapids the last few years – from ArtPrize to the Medical Mile. Things are kind of happening and buzzing here. What I like are these chefs who’ve worked for years at places like, let’s say Gibson’s, and now they’re going out on their own and opening their own places.

You’re finding there’s a higher demand for great restaurants. It’s been a great boom.

Tony: I think timing is everything. I came to Grand Rapids in the ’70s. I remember when you couldn’t get a meal downtown on Sundays because it was rolled up. I think we had the only McDonald’s in the United States that was closed on Sundays. I don’t really think there was an outlet for any culinary experimentation other than meat and potatoes. It was always a meat-and-potatoes town. The chefs were limited as to what they could do. As the town started to develop, and I give a lot of credit to the Grand Action group, there was a lot of planning ahead and things started to move forward.

After Van Andel Arena was built, people started experimenting with more than just bar food. It’s supply and demand.

Michelle: It has a reputation as a beer town. By the way, craft beer is the new wine, and people are demanding good food. I think there are a lot of foodies here with a lot of the new restaurants.

Tony: I think Grand Rapids has earned a reputation as being a food town. I think people in the know are appreciative of it and are working hard to make it better. A lot of people come in from out of town and they rave about the restaurant here. Yes, I think we have established Grand Rapids as being a food town.

And it’s getting better all the time.



Stellafly: Your final impressions of the meal?

Michelle: You know what? I liked the experience. I loved the atmosphere and the experience, and the staff was wonderful. It was a really eclectic mix of food.

Tony: You’ve got two-tops, four-tops people who are enjoying the experience and no one’s in a hurry. Everyone’s having a great time. I love to see that. In Grand Rapids, the sidewalks used to roll up at sundown.

It’s cool to see something like this where you can order a world-class glass of wine at an affordable price or have an assortment of truffles like Michelle just had for dessert … which, by the way, she put in her purse.

I think it’s really impressive. And I think it’s the hardest part they’ve been able to overcome is that people used to treat these places as a special occasion – for an anniversary or a birthday – but that’s not the case anymore. We’re drinking $7 glasses of champagne. I mean, c’mon, most glasses or wine are $9 or $11 anywhere you go. I love it, it’s affordable, I think it’s world-class and I just love the overall experience.

Stellafly: What was your favorite part of the meal?

Michelle: Dessert. The truffles. The wine list was awesome and the champagne was ridiculously great.

Tony: I had the cheese plate and the ratatouille was really good, but my favorite was being able to sample the cheeses as an appetizer as part of a meal. You try something new and you just go, Wow!’ The cheese platter was outstanding.

Stellafly: It’s good to be out and about during Restaurant Week, huh?

Tony: Look at us. Are we thin?

Michelle: We like to eat, we like to eat.

Tony: Plus, we got paid today. I love it!

Artprize Volunteer Kickoff Party: Volunteer Field Camp



If you’ve ever been to an ArtPrize party, you know they are pretty spectacular, and Wednesday night’s Volunteer Kickoff Party was no exception. Sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College and hosted by ArtPrizes’s Community Engagement Director Amelea Pegman, the night had a camp theme, complete with an artfully made bonfire, campfire music, and plenty of delicious food and drinks.







As the volunteers arrived in droves (over 500 of them), the ArtPrize staff was ready to greet them with an adorable bandana and their map of the event, complete with a checklist of badges (pins) they were to collect throughout the night. Each badge represented a different personality of an ArtPrizer—such as the Socialite. In between visiting the various stations and having their photos taken at the Stellafly photo wall, they could enjoy the delicious pulled pork sandwich, homemade mac ‘n cheese, and many other delicious treats from The Starving Artist, and they also had the opportunity to try Founders Brewing Company’s Inspired Artist Black IPA, the first Artprize-inspired beer. From what I heard, this is definitely something visitors to ArtPrize 2013 will want to try.

The night was truly about the volunteers who help make this annual event so successful. This year the organization is looking to recruit over 1,000 individuals to give some of their time to ArtPrize and make all those who visit the event feel welcome. Volunteers who attended Wednesday’s event were able to talk to their peers who have been involved every year and also talk to those who have never volunteered about what a great experience it is. Kudos to the entire ArtPrize staff for throwing such a great party and rallying the volunteers as this event quickly approaches!









ArtPrize 2013 kicks off on September 18, 2013 and runs through October 6, 2013 in downtown Grand Rapids. If you are interested in volunteering, visit the newly redesigned artprize.org for more information.

Restaurant Week Confidential: Local chefs share savory thoughts on farm-to-table movement



Farm. Fresh. Local.

It just doesn’t get much simpler than that for local chefs preparing the freshest farm-to-table ingredients during Restaurant Week Grand Rapids 2013 at more than 65 participating locations in the area.

The theme of this year’s event, spanning Aug. 14-24, is “savoring the summer harvest.”

And there is much to savor – produce, proteins and dairy products – from numerous farms throughout the region that help supply the very freshest items to some of the top dining establishments here.

At each of the restaurants, chefs are serving up unique three-course, farm-to-table experiences for $25, including some locations offering two-for-$25 meals. One dollar from every meal sold during Restaurant Week is donated to the
‘s student scholarship fund at Grand Rapids Community College.

Stellafly spoke exclusively to four local executive chefs and asked them to share their perspectives about locally sourced ingredients and why it’s so important for people to understand where their food comes from.



Forgie, 47, is the executive chef at Reds on the River in Rockford.

His establishment celebrated its seventh anniversary Aug. 11 and makes every effort to incorporate local farm-fresh ingredients into its dishes, including his signature scallops with mushroom risotto.

“Chefs have always been built that way,” he said of the farm-to-table movement, which continues to gain momentum with the public. “It’s just something people are becoming more aware of.”

He gets much of his inspiration from Ingraberg Farms in Rockford

“I get local first. I walk that farm every Tuesday. That’s where we get our specials from,” said Forgie, who graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, Calif., at the age of 30. “You try to support it as much as you can. We tried to design a menu for Restaurant Week that’s our food.

“Now, just so good,” he said of the late-summer harvest.


8 E. Bridge St., Rockford, (616) 863-8181

11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Thu; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri-Sat




Wise, 35, is the executive chef at Grove Restaurant in East Hills.

The self-taught chef and partner in Essence Restaurant Group has made farm-to-table ingredients the primary focus of his cooking whether it’s the freshest produce or even locally sourced animals.

“It’s my passion to deal with local farms and seasonality,” Wise said. “We really embrace what West Michigan has to offer. I want to offer as many local ingredients as possible. I feel our local farms are best represented by all of the vegetables we can get our hands on and all of the proteins we can get our hands on.

“We will feature several dishes that include many of those components.’

Wise, a graduate of Grand Haven High School, studied at the New England Culinary Institute for “about a month” before deciding to return to the kitchen. He got his first job in a restaurant at age 14 and started cooking when he joined the staff at Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids at age 19.

Everything is literally farm-to-table fresh on Grove’s menu.

Wise rattles off a long list of area farms where his restaurant gets its ingredients. He also applauds Ingraberg Farms for starting the trend of connecting local farms to dining establishments in 1998.

“Dale and Helen are the people who got it all started here in West Michigan,” he said. “They really had the vision of bringing local farmers to restaurants 15 years ago. We work Ham Family Farm in Allendale, Creswick Farms in Ravenna, S&S Lamb in McBain, Fish Monger’s Wife in Muskegon and a lot of others.”

He said Grove is offering 12-14 different first, second and third courses as part of its Restaurant Week menu.

“You’re getting the whole gamut,” he promised. “I take Restaurant Week as a challenge to see what we can offer and use it as an opportunity to promote the West Michigan restaurant culture. I think it highlights those lifelong (farm-to-table) relationships.

“We try to show respect to all of these ingredients and where they came from.”


919 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, (616) 454-1000

5-9 p.m. Sun; 5-10 p.m. Tue-Thu; 5-11 p.m. Fri-Sat



Wabeke, 42, is the executive chef at Terra Handcrafted Foods in Eastown.

The former Trillium Haven Restaurant was rebranded in mid-July and refocussed on handcrafted farm-to-table fare – just in time to show off its newly inspired direction for Restaurant Week.

“You really had to go out and seek it out yourself in the past at farmers markets,” Wabeke explained of the public’s transformation from occasional organic shopping to demanding it more and more upon eating out. “Now, the farmers are seeing a lot of value in working with the local restaurants. The farms that have been willing to work with chefs and restaurants on the delivery of that have been very successful.”

Terra emphasizes fresh local ingredients in most of its dishes.

Wabeke, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., insisted the timing of Restaurant Week is perfect to take advantage of the bountiful late-summer harvest of produce items.

“We’re just starting to see the beginning of heirloom tomatoes. We’ve also got some nice sweet corn coming in now,” he said. “The summer squash and zucchinis are really good. There’s sweet and spicy red and green peppers. The peaches and stone fruits look really nice after such a tough year last year. The cabbages are really good. And the baby carrots right now are amazing. Nearly everything, it’s the perfect time for Restaurant Week.”

He couldn’t be prouder that more and more people are connecting to their food sources.

“I think people want to know where their food is coming from because there’s a lot of mistrust about the big companies, especially every time there’s an outbreak with contaminated produce items,” Wabeke said. “A huge focus of our is having more healthy options on our menu and treating vegetables carefully.

“We treat them like a lot of other people treat their proteins and meats.”


1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids , (616) 301-0998

Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon-Fri; Dinner 5-11 p.m. Mon-Sat and 4 p.m.-close Sun; Brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat-Sun




Absenger, 46, is chef de cuisine at Cygnus 27 in downtown Grand Rapids.

He and his staff are featuring a handful of dishes during Restaurant Week using the sous vide method – food sealed in airtight plastic pouches cooked in a water bath at a consistent temperature for a long period of time.

The sous vide preparations include: Shrimp Louis salad with shrimp poached for 90 minutes at 165 degrees; Ratatouille tortellini with vegetables poached for 90 minutes at 175 degrees and pasta poached for 20-25 minutes at 165 degrees; Korean-spiced beef short ribs, locally sourced from Sobie Meats in Walker, poached for 24 hours at 175 degrees; and Chicken Coq Au Vin with Amish chickens sourced from farms along the Indiana-Michigan border and just outside Chicago, meat taken off the bone, marinated in wine and paired with vegetables, mushrooms and potatoes, poached for four hours at 165 degrees.

His restaurant locally sources some of its finest ingredients.

It gets its pork chops and short ribs from Sobie Meats, its pasta from The Local Epicurean boutique in Grand Rapids and much of its vegetables from the expansive The Chef’s Garden in Ohio.

“We try to buy locally as much as we can,” Absenger said.

The late-summer crop of fresh produce, especially sweet corn and tomatoes, is beginning to show up on menus everywhere. It’s all part of the increasing trend of people wanting to know more and more about their food.

“I remember when I came to the States in 1988,” said Absenger, a native of Melk, Austria, who served a four-year apprenticeship at chef’s school in his homeland. “Nobody cared where there food was coming from. As time went on, maybe in the last six years, the ‘local movement’ has taken off tremendously.

“I think that’s pretty exciting.”


187 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, (616) 776-6425

5:30-10 p.m. Tue-Sat; 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun


Restaurant Week Grand Rapids 2013 will take place from August 14 – 24 at over 70 restaurants. There are fifteen first time restaurants participating in Restaurant Week this year. There are more ethnic restaurants than ever before – fifteen ethnic restaurants – are participating in Restaurant Week.

Restaurant Week menus for all participating restaurants can be viewed online at RestaurantWeekGR.com. The public is encouraged to make reservations and dine out often during Restaurant Week Grand Rapids, whose theme is “Savor Summer – Farm-to-Fork Fantastic”. Seven Grand Rapids hotels have restaurants participating in Restaurant Week Grand Rapids: JW Marriott, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, The Grand Rapids Riverfront Hotel, City Flats Hotel, Hilton Grand Rapids Airport Hotel, The Crowne Plaza. For booking hotels during Restaurant Week Grand Rapids see RestaurantWeekGR.com. Maps showing all of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week Grand Rapids 2013 are now available at all Founders Bank & Trust branches and at Ferris Coffee and Nut located at 227 Winter Avenue, NW Grand Rapids – or visit RestaurantWeekGR.com.



The 12th annual Miss Spirit of the State and Miss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen competition



The 12th annual Miss Spirit of the State and Miss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen competition took place downtown last night at Forty-One Sheldon. The intimate theatre, formerly the UICA movie theatre and now shared by ArtPrize and Compass College of Cinematic Arts, had not one empty seat in the house as 26 young women from all over the state of Michigan took the stage to compete for the respective titles.

Set to music from recent films like The Great Gatsby and Pitch Perfect, contestants hit the stage to compete in the phases of on-stage question, physical fitness, evening wear, and of course, talent. Talent presentations ranged from instrumental performances, singing, and dancing, to a martial arts routine. At the end of the night, the contestant in each age division with the highest talent score was presented with an award, and the honors went to Teen contestant Alisha Gatchel for her performance of her self-composed piano/vocal presentation to “Stronger Than This”, and Miss contestant Melissa Greve for her tap dance to “Swing Set”, a mix of up-tempo standards from the 1940’s.





White was the color of the night – with 5 out of the 6 teens, ranging between 12-17 years of age, making it their choice for evening wear, and all of the contestants being introduced wearing a white cocktail dress, which was also worn for the on-stage question competition for the Misses. The older contestants between ages 17-24 were put on the spot to give their opinions on a variety of current issues, like gun control, DOMA, racial profiling, and the city of Detroit’s recent file for bankruptcy.

Hosted by former Spirit titleholder Melissa Cousino, the show featured four additional Miss Spirit of the State and Miss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen titleholders throughout the years, who throughout the evening took the stage to introduce contestants and perform. They included Sarah Suydam – Miss Spirit 2012, Brooklynn Lambert – Spirit’s Teen 2011, Kyleigh Smith – Spirit’s Teen 2013, and Lauren Brown – Miss Spirit 2013. All of them were a part of the closing production number which was based on the “Bella Finale” of the movie Pitch Perfect.

At the end of the night, it was Alisha Gatchel who took home the title of Miss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen 2014; the 16 year-old student at Greenville High School aspires to be a music composer and performer, and her area of community service focus is Pediatric Cancer Support. Kelly Gooch of Jackson was crowned Miss Spirit of the State 2014, and is the first teenager to receive the honors, making her the youngest Miss Spirit to join the sisterhood. Gooch, 19, is a dancer who performed to “The 20th Century Fox Mambo” from Smash from her talent presentation. Her platform/area of community service is Breast Cancer Awareness.

Throughout the next year, both young women will call Grand Rapids their second home as they prepare for the state level competition, and represent the Miss Spirit of the State Scholarship Program. Some local sponsors and supporters of the program include Brindle and Blonde salon, The People Picture Company, Hanna Wagner Design, Vue Design, and Modern Day Floral, though the support of the program extends all the way to the east cost of the United States, as Miss Spirit of the State’s wardrobe is sponsored by The Perfect Dress of New Jersey.

A part of a 90+ year tradition, the Miss Spirit of the State Scholarship Program is a local affiliate of the Miss America Organization – the largest source of scholarships for women in the world, offering $45 million annually on a local, state, and national level. Gooch and Gatchel will compete at Miss Michigan and Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen in June 2014 at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon.







A complete list of awards:


1st Runner-Up – Natalie Seese

2nd Runner-Up – Rebekah Hemingway

Talent Award – Alisha Gatchel

Evening Wear Award – Alisha Gatchel

Miss Congeniality – Hannah Ringler

People’s Choice Award – Rebekah Hemingway


1st Runner-Up – Mallory Rivard

2nd Runner-Up – Shelby Gardiner

3rd Runner-Up – Jaeleen Davis

4th Runner-Up – Charlotte Squires

Talent Award – Melissa Greve

Evening Wear Award – Emily Kieliszewski

Quality of Life Award – Emily Kieilszewski

Miss Congeniality – Jodi Beckman

People’s Choice Award – Katelyn Sandor


The Adventures of Don Kern



Don Kern is absolute proof that life is marathon and not a sprint.

He suffered from asthma as a child and never approached jock status as a high school athlete. He achieved his varsity letter, in fact, as a member of the debate team. He admittedly didn’t conjure up images of someone who might set a world record running marathons on all seven continents in the span of less than a month.

Yet, this self-described “ordinary guy” accomplished the unfathomable.

He ran full 26.2-mile marathons in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America and Antarctica from Nov. 6 through Dec. 1 of 2001 in a span of 25 days, 18 hours and 10 minutes – from the start of the first race until he crossed the finish line in his final race – to shatter the record.

He recounts those experiences in a newly released book, “and the adventure continues ….,” which is available through local bookstores and running stores, but set for an official release on Sept. 10 at Schuler Books, 2660 28th St. SE, in Grand Rapids. It sells for $19.95 and may be ordered through Kern’s website at cooladventures.net.

“The real theme of the book is that an ordinary guy can do amazing things” the 57-year-old Kern said. “I’m not a hot-shot athlete. Until I found out what a fast-twitch muscle was, I was too old to have any of them.

“I was just never an athlete of any kind, but I always wanted to try and stay in shape, so I decided to start running marathons,” he added. “The whole idea is to let people realize you don’t have to be Superman in order to do some really amazing stuff. I really wanted to be able to share that story with people.

“I finally had the right story to share with them.”



The adventures began when started training for his first marathon at age 29.

“I started running marathons in 1995, and while I was training for my first marathon, I saw there were lots of adventures to be had,” said Kern, owner and operator of the Grand Rapids Marathon. “If you can train to run a marathon, you can pretty much go anywhere in the world and find a place to run.

“And in 1995, it was the first time they had ever run a marathon in Antarctica. The next opportunity to run a marathon there was 1997. Even before I finished reading the article about it, I put the magazine down and I called Marathon Tours and signed up for the next one. I was going to be a marathon runner,” he added with a laugh. “I had never been to Antarctica before. I saw that and it just sounded like fun.

“I just figured I’d go do it. I guess I was committed to being a marathon runner ever before I had run my first one.”

He ran that first marathon in Chicago on Oct. 15, 1995.

He was hooked right from the start, pursuing a passion for the sport that turned into both his occupation and his lifestyle. To date, he has run 241 marathons and traveled almost the circumference of the earth on foot.

It took three attempts, however, for him to achieve the seven-continents record.

“I tried it three times before I finally made it. That’s one of the backstories of the book,” Kern said. “I give accounts of the first two attempts (both in 2007) and wanting to do such a thing. The whole journey was just a nice series of events that turned into a really good thing when I got to the end of it.”

His first attempt fell short.

He thought he’d shattered the record in his second attempt a decade later, but another marathoner simultaneously achieved the same feat in four fewer days. He finished races on all seven continents in 35 days, but poor weather in Antarctica’s interior held up the event for eight days, costing him the record.

The third attempt ended up being the charm.




He started off running in South Africa on Nov. 6 and picked off the rest of the continents one-by-one: Nov. 13 in Switzerland; Nov. 20 in Brazil; Nov. 23 in Japan; Nov. 26 in New Zealand; Nov. 27 in Florida; and, finally, Dec. 1 in Antarctica. He crossed the international dateline on a flight from New Zealand to the U.S.

“It made for a very long Saturday. It was like having two Saturdays,” he said.

The travel didn’t bother him.

“It was intense, but it wasn’t bad,” Kern recalled. “The best way to get over jet lag is to get up the next morning and run a marathon. I didn’t have any other schedule than I just had to show up at the airports on time and I had to show up at the races on time. The jet lag really wasn’t a problem because I could sleep when I wanted to and I was not on anybody’s schedule but my own. If I felt like sleeping in the middle of the day, I’d sleep in the middle of the day because I knew I wasn’t going to do anything else anyway.

“It wasn’t a big deal. You just learn to do it.”

The life experiences he gained from spanning the globe in pursuit of the world record are unquestionably what he cherishes most. He takes readers of his book on that extraordinary journey with him.

“I started meeting good people, having good times and adventurous trips,” he said, “and the next thing you know, running marathons had become a hobby that actually turned into a lifestyle and now it’s become my occupation. I love that running a marathon makes people do something bigger than they ever thought they could do.

“To put together a plan to run 26.2 miles and work through that plan and get to the end of it … and the end of the finish line with that participant’s medal hanging from your neck … you can do almost anything.”

Kern, an ordinary guy who accomplished the extraordinary, is living proof of that.

Cool Adventures Website: http://www.cooladventures.net
Grand Rapids Marathon: http://grandrapidsmarathon.com
Grand Rapids Marathon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GRMarathon

How Passion + Volunteerism Shaped the Career of Senita Lenear


Lenear stepped down as President of the Board of Education for the Grand Rapids Public Schools on June 30, 2013. She is pursuing a seat as a Grand Rapids City Commissioner in the city’s 3rd Ward.

“That’s what passion does for you. It changes your trajectory,” said Lenear. “Now all of a sudden, you’re interested in other things and you’re going to do whatever it takes at all costs to make sure that you make the difference in that way.”

Making a difference by engaging in educational and mentoring programs in her community is at the very heart of Lenear’s passion. Her professional career began at a large insurance company, where she worked for 14 years.

“I started working for Blue Care Network, a subsidiary of Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” said Lenear. “And I worked there for a number of years. And just kind of worked my way up the company. Early on, I was a UAW representative. I was a steward. I bargained for Local 2145, which is an experience that has been with me even yet today. And then I decided to switch to management and worked in Human Resources and other business management positions.”





“One of the positions I held at Blue Cross Blue Shield was Community Affairs Representative. What I always used to say is ‘Blue Cross and Blue Shield is affording me the opportunity to do what I have passion to do, which is to be in the community — at their expense!'”

Lenear laughed.

“Now, I don’t know what they would say about that. But that really is what it did. I was involved in the community. And because I worked for a company that had some of the mission-driven areas that I had passion for — education, seniors, health and well-being — those are things I have passion for. And so to be able to then be involved at that level actually was very helpful.”

While working at Blue Cross, Lenear became deeply involved in volunteering in her community.

“I knew that anyone could make a difference if they participated in seeking change,” said Lenear. “So a lot of time, you know, many of us, everybody is talking to friends and family about what’s wrong with the world and what’s wrong in the community. But, I suddenly wanted to shift my focus from talking about what was wrong to trying to find solutions.”

Lenear found that engaging with young people and community members inspired her. She became involved in mentoring programs as well as initiatives that provided awareness about health disparities in the community.

“I became a board member of the Student Advancement Foundation, which is an organization that has the sole purpose of raising funds and providing funding for the Grand Rapids Public Schools,” said Lenear. “I became a volunteer with Baxter Community Center, which is located right here in the 3rd Ward of the City of Grand Rapids. Abundant Life Center – I became the president of that board. I started looking at my volunteerism in a different way.”

“My involvement with Infant Mortality, in researching and getting involved with that, was early 2000’s. I know now that the rates have decreased significantly. The gap between the African American babies who had rates of 3rd world countries has been closed significantly as well.”




“One of the things I found very interesting about the infant mortality rate was that it wasn’t attributed to moms and poverty necessarily. I remember it being middle class moms with insurance. So I remember thinking, ‘OK. So what is going on?’”

“Sometimes people connect so many negative things with poverty, but this wasn’t one of those things. It was clearly an education piece.”

Nelson Mandela has a quote that says ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”

“It’s one of my favorite quotes. And the reason is because education isn’t just about K or pre-K through 12. Education is on so many different facets and so many different worlds. This was a good example of education for moms who could or could not have been in poverty. That could or could not have been in a minority or ethnic group. Or could not have been socially or economically impoverished.”

“I really think it’s the change that you want to see. It’s easy to talk on the sidelines about who can do what and why things need to change. But the piece about being a part of the change? That’s what inspires me. I think that anyone who wants to see change should get involved in the community in some way, shape, or form. And they can find ways of doing that.”

“There are so many things out there. So many people to inspire and mentor. Why not volunteer your time?”



“Find organizations that can speak to something that you have passion for. That’s your next step. Once you find that organization, you contact them. And most non-profits welcome volunteers. They want people to come in and help out.”

“Sometimes volunteering may mean — Baxter Community Center, for example — they have an annual clean up day. You’re painting and pulling up shrubs and planting things. That may be something you may do. Or you may pop in and speak at an event that you have a passion for. Or you may decide to become a mentor. Big Brothers/Big Sister programs. Or Scouts.”

“The schools — if you’re a graduate of and live in the community where you attended school or even your children’s schools, you may participate in that manner.”

“There’s a lot of work out there to be done. And I believe that if all hands are on deck, we can make the change that we want to see.”

“As a woman, or even an African-American woman, there are so many hurdles that you are faced with, that you can gain something that no one can take away from you is extremely powerful. And not powerful in the sense of authority, but powerful in the sense of ‘I own this and no one can take this away from me.'”


Sharing Good Times with Good Friends at Ju Sushi & Lounge – Shelley Irwin and Dave Jaconette





GRAND RAPIDS – In the latest installment of our “Breaking Bread” monthly series spotlighting some of the region’s finest restaurants, Stellafly sits down with WGVU radio and television host and producer Shelley Irwin and WJRW-AM NewsTalk 1340 program director and host Dave Jaconette for an unforgettable dining experience at the incomparable Ju Sushi & Lounge near Cascade.

Irwin, 52, is a popular fixture on the local scene. She is celebrating 10 years on the air as the host of the WGVU Morning Show from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and shares her time with numerous civic groups and charitable causes. No one is more active and committed to being part of the fabric of West Michigan as she is.

Jaconette, 50, has been the calming and reassuring influence at WJRW since the news-talk station debuted in the Grand Rapids market in August of 2009. He serves as on-air host of “Sound Off West Michigan” from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. as well as the “Noon News.” He is a seasoned news veteran, having spent 28 years in the radio business in pursuit of breaking stories spanning the entire market.


Our meal turns out to be a group revelation.

Everyone at the table is a relative neophyte when it comes to sushi, but we all surrender to hesitation and are stunned by the artistic flair and stunning flavors that come from these freshest of ingredients.

The eight-course meal plus dessert is a feast for both our eyes and taste buds.

It starts off with a fresh salad and continues with what seems to be an endless series of spectacular-looking and -tasting plates prepared by head sushi chef Henry Lim, sushi chef Josh Froman, cook Angela Tran and assistant general manager Grant Steiner, who’s pretty skilled in the kitchen as well.

The food propels our rapid-fire conversation on social media’s place amid the fast-changing news landscape.



The edamame, greens and melt-in-your-mouth ginger vinaigrette get us off to a fine start.

A few minutes later, our attentive server, Elvin Quinones, brings three plates filled with appetizers: 1. Sunshine rolls (spicy salmon, cucumber, salmon slices on top, sweet sunshine sauce and thinly shaved lemon slices); 2. Jumbo Spider rolls (crabstick, softshell crab meat, cucumber, Masago orange fish eggs and sweet wasabi sauce); 3. Red Dragon (shrimp tempura, cucumber, crabstick, tuna slices on top, spicy mayo and Sriracha).

Stellafly: How important is social media in the newsgathering process?

Shelley: I open my eyes when I wake up and I reach for the iPhone. There’s a quick check of how we’re doing out there. I’m not a breaking news player, I’m a 9-11 program, a little more soft, a little more planned – versus something that’s traumatic that needs to be covered

Dave: Like Shelley, I wake up and go for the iPhone and find out what’s happening, but we’re breaking news. We had a big traffic accident this afternoon and we try to get the word out as quickly as we can on Facebook, Twitter and on our website. Luckily, we’ve got someone who’s really versed in social media who’s all over it and, us older guys, we can do it, too, but we have someone who’s really dedicated we assign that. But we’re all over breaking news.

Shelley: At this point in our lives, we are expected to be versed in what is happening in social-media venues. It depends on how you handle it. If you’re a good multi-tasker and you’re focussed and you use it, it’s in your favor.

Dave: The reality is people are consuming their news differently now than when Shelley and I started.

Stellafly: What’s the best part of social media when it comes to reporting the news?

Shelley: For me, it’s the ability to instantly communicate and the ability for me to share what’s happening from 9-11 with pictures, here’s who’s coming up and here’s what’s happening in the community. It’s an immediate connection with listeners.

Dave: I’m also surprised with how personal and intimate you can be in 140 characters or less – not just with breaking news, but conveying emotion and telling a story. It might be just passing along something that’s been sitting with you for a while, then you can get it out and people react. Or they don’t.

Shelley: It can be a good thing. It’s a rush because we’re both live in-studio and constantly monitoring an AP newswire and social media. If you get news of a prominent death or a traffic situation , we have to make sure our sources are appropriate, but we have the right to take that on.

Dave: There shouldn’t be any shortcuts, but there’s also no excuses for not breaking news because we have access to all this information now. It’s so different from when we had an AP wire or UPI machine that literally would click-clack the news out as news broke.





In the middle of our meal comes a surprising crab pizza.

It instantly becomes a group favorite and is topped with fresh crab and lots of other goodies. Jaconette, who is allergic to shrimp, welcomes this course after having to avoid some of the earlier offerings.

Stellafly: What’s the worst part about social media for you guys?

Dave: The rush is quicker and you do have to be more careful. One of the downsides, there’s no downtime in this business. News can break at any time, and it does, so we’re obligated to pass that along.

Shelley: And we’ve been without checking it for the last 20 minutes, so if there’s anything happening, we’re going to have to check shortly to make sure.

Stellafly: Is there too much of a rush to be first instead of the rush to be right in the social-media era?

Shelley: That is what one might have to sacrifice. Immediacy could get you in trouble.

Dave: We see this. We’re lucky to have this old-school news director, James Gemmell, whose philosophy is, ‘It’s good to get it first, but it’s better to be right.’ You don’t want to get it wrong first. There’s no point to that.

Stellafly: How about immediate reactions from the public on Twitter and other social-media platforms. Is is too much sometimes? For example, was the swift Twitter backlash to the Paula Deen controversy fair or not?

Shelley: When you are a public figure, anything’s a go. Even in our business, one poor judgment could put us in the headlines as well. Twitter is being fed to so many different types of people, from fans to non-fans. She’s a very unique entity.

Dave: In Paula Deen‘s case, I heard some comments from the BET Awards on Sunday night and there were a lot of African-American celebrities giving their take on Paula Deen. Nine out of 10 said, ‘You know, what she said wasn’t right, but the backlash was too much.’ I don’t know if there’s a proper context for the attitude she was displaying through her language. There’s a historical context, a geographic context, so I thought that maybe that was too much. I don’t know what the right thing is, but at some point she’ll do a major interview and we’ll rehabilitate her like we do everyone else in America.

Shelley: It was perhaps a trigger of what society still deals with – and she was caught.

Dave: Every situation is different, but in the Paula Deen case she rushed very quickly to apologize, which, for a lot of people, when you make a mistake, just say you’re sorry, tell people you’re sorry. But she did it in such an awkward way and it was edited funny, and I think she got caught it a unique circumstance. Things move very quickly and you do have to be careful. Not everybody thinks before they speak.

Shelley: We do have to think before we speak, and I don’t think there’s a seven-second delay in my world. Yup, you have to think before you speak.





The sixth and seventh courses feature a Chef’s Special and Playboy rolls.

The special features snapper and salmon wrapped around spicy crab and salmon, sweet potato crunch, sweet eel sauce and Sriracha. The Playboy roll features spicy tuna, asparagus, cream cheese, shrimp slices on top, shrimp tempura inside and sweet-n-spicy sauce. Both are tremendous hits with the whole group.

Stellafly: How competitive is the news gathering business and how has it changed?

Shelley: I think competition is good. You always want to strive to do your best, but you also ultimately need to find and attract your audience. There may be styles that one may not prefer compared to another. Am I spying on the other side? No. I’m confident that I do what I do, and that’s who’s going to listen to me. If I have to leave early, I jump in the car and the first thing I do is turn on the radio and listen to Dave. I think it works in my favor to know there are choices out there. How has it changed? It’s using social media to get guest ideas and see who Dave might have on. I hope it works in both of our favors.

Dave: Shelley is a community ambassador, so, I mean, she’s out in the community a lot. We’re friends and it’s more we’re brother and sister in sound instead of competitors. The market is extremely competitive. In addition to WGVU, there’s WOOD radio, which has been around for 85 years, although they now do a live local hour from 9-10. It’s an interesting market because there’s several news-talk stations and then there’s more relaxed talk on the NPR stations.

You’ve got classic rock pitted against classic rock, country against country, top 40 against top 40, sports against sports. It’s a unique market for its size and it’s very different from Kalamazoo, where I was at the same station for 14-plus years. It’s a different animal (at WJRW). We’re a young upstart and we’re trying to do some things differently, so when we’re live we try to take advantage of that instead of just syndicated programming.

Shelley: Although NPR is syndicated-based and not as ratings driven, I think there’s still a fight for the advertising dollar. That’s the bottom line.

Dave: It is fun being competitive. It’s a different atmosphere and it keeps you sharper. You gotta come to play.

Shelley: And signal matters. You do the best with what you have, although that’s no excuse because we all stream. So, there’s that audience. If you can’t pick me up from your office, then put me on your computer. If you have a signal limitation, that is against you, but you work around that by putting your show on the Internet.



Hey, Godzilla, eat your heart out.

Not even the biggest, baddest, coolest monster is capable of tackling the Tokyo Tower alone. The staggering combination of spicy salmon, spicy tuna, spicy crab salad on top and avocado slices stacked atop a base of white rice, a bed of lettuce and calamari and four distinct sauces looks almost too good to touch.

The unabashed Jaconette wields his chopsticks and demolishes it so that we can portion this gorgeous monster. Note to future diners at Ju Sushi and Lounge: Do yourself and favor and order this, but bring a friend.

Stellafly: Does the Grand Rapids media market play bigger than its actual size?

Dave: I do think so sometimes, especially when we have some of these signature events. It has big-city amenities and a bit of a small-town feel.

Shelley: I’ll just agree. Look at how much Grand Rapids has grown in just the last five years. We do so much to make sure we’re on top of those stories – the ArtPrizes, the LaughFests and the floodings. I think we’ve got a lot to be proud of with our local coverage, and we have to step up to the plate and do our best.



It’s a surprise any of us have room for sweets at the end of the meal.

Yet, the carrot cake, flour-less chocolate cake and homemade Tiramisu ice cream, are impossible to resist.



Stellafly: Impressions of the meal?

Shelley: If a full stomach is an impression of a meal well-served and well-ingested, then I give it an A. I don’t have a lot of sushi, so this is a new taste to me. I’m a carbo and rice person and I occasionally sneak in a bite of carrot cake. From the extremes, this made my day.

Dave: How comfortable were you with the chopsticks?

Shelley: I was not comfortable with the chopsticks and they did not work for me.

Dave: I am crazy about edamame and I enjoyed those and the ginger salad. The crab pizza was terrific. I think out of the other courses my favorite was the Tokyo Tower. It was unusual and you get to destroy it. It was all part of the process.

I did not try the Playboy roll, which was Shelley’s favorite, because it had shrimp in it. I did not want to tempt fate too much because it would’ve taken a team of you to restart my heart. I did enjoy some of the Red Dragon, which had a teeny bit of shrimp in it and the Sunshine roll was great. And the desserts were great.


Location: 1144 E. Paris. Ave. SE, Suite 9, Grand Rapids 49546

Hours: 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. until midnight Friday and Saturday; noon until 9 p.m. Sunday. Happy hour from 3-6 p.m.

Fare: Impressive selection of the freshest sushi in Grand Rapids artistically and expertly prepared.

Ambience: Hip, modern, warm and inviting. Ju (meaning pearl) features a large main dining room and full bar, plus a private room seating 30-35 people with a 60-inch flat-screen television and a glassed-in wall on the second floor overlooking the main eating area. It has been open for almost two years and is planning to be part of Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids this year.

Phone: (616) 575-5858

Website: jusushi.com

Email: email@jusushi.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/ju.sushi.lounge

Twitter: @JuSushiLounge1