|By Sylvia Rector, Detroit Free
PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 3, 2007 - Greg Carroll has survived three Caribbean hurricanes and two Moscow winters in his career as a top hotel, resort and casino chef.
Maybe that's how he developed those nerves of steel.
The new executive chef of MotorCity Casino Hotel began his job in September and is expected to open the casino's most important restaurant -- Iridescence, on the hotel's 17th floor -- by the end of the month.
Last week, however, workers were still carrying pipes and beams through the 38-foot-tall dining room, Carroll was still interviewing potential sous chefs to run the restaurant, and the menus not only weren't written, they couldn't be until the chefs were on board.
If that weren't pressure enough, Iridescence is just one of the restaurants on Carroll's to-do list, as MotorCity heads toward completion of its $300-million expansion.
Opening in quick succession through early next year will be Amnesia, a two-level ultra lounge also located atop the hotel; the Showroom, designed for dining and live entertainment; a still-unnamed bistro restaurant; an entirely new buffet concept, and seven banquet halls with seating for 1,200.
If Carroll is concerned about all the work remaining before the Iridescence opening, he wasn't saying so last week when he sat down to talk about MotorCity's dining plans and the challenges he faces in opening so many venues so soon after arriving.
"I don't look at it as being a challenge. I look at it as being very, very exciting," he said. "We have a plan ... for all the openings and for when they occur, and you take one aspect at a time. ... It's just a matter of being organized and getting things done. It's fun -- it really is. The rewards are daily, and that's what I enjoy."
While Carroll and his boss, food and beverage vice president Lucio Arancibia, don't have menus for Iridescence, they do have detailed plans that include an upscale Sunday brunch.
The room itself will be a showstopper, done in metal, glass and stone with curving walls of marble. It will seat 152, including a 45-seat bar, a chef's table for 10 or 12 in the wine room and a two-level dining room, in which every table has a view of the Detroit and Windsor skylines through a towering wall of windows.
Arancibia says the American contemporary menu will offer pre-fixe chef's tasting selections as well as traditional full-size entrees, plus the opportunity to order 3-ounce portions of different items, "so if I really want to try three different entrees, now I can do it," he says.
Carroll says the food will be "cutting edge ... we're looking for the wow factor." And portion sizes will be generous because "that's important in Detroit."
Iridescence will also feature desserts by the American Culinary Federation's 2007 pastry chef of the year, Patricia Nash, who joined MotorCity three weeks ago from Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
"They're going to be spectacular ... like no other in the city," Carroll says.
Iridescence's Sunday brunch will be prepared and served from five or six chef's micro-stations set up against the glass with the city in the background.
"It's going to be more of a small, boutique-type layout," he says.
He was able to design it that way because "we have all the bells and whistles. Everything is brand new ... from the china, glass and silver to the buffet platters and serving tiers for the brunch.
"Everything is first-class ... It's really a chef's dream," says Carroll, 47, who came to Detroit after five years as executive chef of the prestigious Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.
He succeeded MotorCity executive chef Michael Russell, who left at the beginning of September after eight years in the job to become executive chef of the McCormick Place convention complex in Chicago.
Russell's departure just two months before the Nov. 1 scheduled opening of the hotel complex was unexpected, but he said he was leaving "under very good terms" and early enough that management had time to find a replacement.
The hotel opening was delayed until last week because some furnishings had not arrived and more staff training time was needed, casino officials said.
Before his Indianapolis job, Carroll says, he traveled the Caribbean for 12 years, working mostly in resort hotels until the general manager he worked for in Aruba was transferred to Moscow and persuaded Carroll to join him.
"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had, working in downtown Moscow. It was during the city's 850th anniversary, and it was a great time to be there," he says.
He was recruited back to the Bahamas to be regional executive chef for four or five properties, but after a hurricane destroyed the flagship operation and a second storm wiped out the rebuilding effort, the company pulled out of the region and Carroll went to Indianapolis.
At MotorCity, with an annual food and beverage budget of about $55 million, he directs a staff of 22 sous chefs including two senior executive sous chefs, in addition to 200 cooks and 70 to 75 stewards, who maintain the kitchens.
After the previous delays, casino officials don't want to commit to a firm opening date for Iridescence, though they hope it will be around Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.
"It may be before then, but definitely we plan to have it on line by the auto show" in the second week of January, public relations director Jacci Woods said last week.
Once it is launched, casino officials can focus on the remaining clubs and restaurants, all of which guests can patronize without entering casino space.
"I think it is really key to know that you don't have to be 21 to go and dine in our venues and hotel," making them an option for events and groups of all kinds, Carroll said.
Contact SYLVIA RECTOR at 313-222-5026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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