GTPulse: This Traverse City Couple Wants To Cook You Dinner In Your Kitchen, Or Theirs
There are a lot of fantastic food options in Traverse City. With variation in dining that ranges from burgers and pizza, to culinary masterpieces it can be hard to stand out in this foodie haven, but a local couple are bringing something new to Traverse City dining. Forrest and Nicole Moline are opening up a food studio where dinner will feel more like going to someone’s home, than going out to eat.
Forrest Moline has been passionate about food his entire life. He grew up in Southern California where many of his friend’s families owned restaurants. His friends worked as cooks and Forrest was interested in doing the same. He was also influenced by his grandmother.
“I grew up in a Spanish and Italian household, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who cooked a lot. The Food Network came out when I was like, 9 or 10. My grandmother was retired in a home, she watched a lot of TV and she loved to test recipes. I would do that with her and really loved that.”
His cuisine filled youth inspired him to pursue cooking further by enrolling in Oxnard Community College’s culinary program. He ultimately didn’t complete culinary school. At 19 years old, Forrest and his friends piled into three cars and decided to move to Cleveland, Ohio on a whim.
Cleveland was where Forrest first staged at a restaurant. Staging is like interning or apprenticing in the food world. A young hopeful chef is allowed to work, for free, and prove their skills. Staging is also a great way for new chef’s to build up their cooking skills.
“I thought that was cool,” Forrest said. “I can go work in other restaurants for free and learn their stuff? I mean, who wants to work for free…but I was so excited and passionate about cooking and being in a new environment.”
Forrest met Nicole during his time in Ohio, and the two moved to Des Moines Iowa for a cooking opportunity before returning to Ohio again to work at celebrity chef restaurant Lola Bistro. Chefs are notorious for jumping around a lot so it wasn’t long before Forrest’s feel grew itchy and he wanted a new challenge.
“To be the best chef that you can you have to jump around a lot to gain the wealth of knowledge you need to serve the food that you wanna serve.”
So Forrest and Nicole moved to Royal Oak, Michigan where Forrest worked at Roast in Detroit for a while as well as Forest Grill in Birmingham. Forrest and Nicole also got engaged while living down state. During a celebratory vacation to Traverse City, they fell in love all over again.
“I had forgot how beautiful Northern Michigan was,” Nicole said. “We came up here and we didn’t even feel like we were in the same state. We really enjoyed the area, we planned a destination wedding here and we just had the itch to move here.”
They bought a home in town Traverse City. Nicole was able to work from home and Forrest started an in-home dining business. Forrest comes to people’s homes where he makes a full, custom dinner for guests. Each menu is designed specific to each client. The private chef business is ran by him and Nicole and has been a source of pride and joy for both of them.
“When we started the private chef business it was awesome because we were doing it together. It was very rewarding to be able to go into people’s homes who were celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, birthdays, bachelorette parties. It was always something happy and people were always shocked with the quality of food we were bringing to their dinner table. We’ve had people say, ‘that came out of my oven?’”
The business took off, but Forrest and Nicole needed a bigger kitchen and prep space. Instead of renting space, they decided to buy a space on Union. The space was where the old Blue Heron Café was located and the couple has completely transformed the restaurant into a beautiful kitchen and dining area. The kitchen is open to the main dining area and they can’t wait to be able to give guests a unique dining experience.
The food-centric event space called Forrest: A Food Studio, will be used as prep space for Forrest’s in-home chef service, serving guests in-house and letting other chefs rent the space for pop-up restaurants. Forrest also plans on teaching cooking classes in the studio, and people will be able to rent the space for private events.
“The idea is that the cooking class menu and the dinner menu will be two different things, and will change each month,” Forrest said.
The classes will have eight spots at a time, and the dinners will be open to 10-12 people at a time. The only staff will be Nicole and Forrest, with Forrest cooking and Nicole being a dinner party hostess that makes drinks and serves the guests. Guests will be permitted to wander around the space and even go back into the kitchen to see Forrest in action.
“We want to keep it small and intimate. Like you’re coming over to our house for a dinner party,” Nicole said.
The food studio is waiting on a liquor license, and anyone who has worked in the service industry knows what a long and convoluted process that is. Because Forrest and Nicole want their guests to be able to enjoy a meal paired with a cocktail or wine that compliments it, they will not be open until the liquor license is approved, likely later in the year.
“We really want to open and be committed to the public. We don’t wanna half-ass anything,” Forrest said.
Forrest: A Food Studio is a true labor of love. There was no mommy and daddy money to get it off the ground and there are no investors. Forrest and Nicole built the business from the ground up. Forrest is still available to come to your kitchen and make a spectacular meal, but soon you’ll be able to enjoy a great meal in the couple’s kitchen at Forrest: A Food Studio.