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After graduating from Rochester High School, Jay Gundy, executive chef of Cork restaurant in Pleasant Ridge, enrolled at Macomb College with the intent of eventually transferring to Kettering University to study automotive engineering.

But when his friend, chef Kirk Robinson, called asking him to help make gourmet pizzas at Alcatraz Brewing at Great Lakes Crossing, Gundy was hooked and decided to drop out of school.

“I thought I was hot stuff in my chef coat,” he said. “And I knew that was what I wanted to do. Within a year I learned every station and was one of the best line cooks there.”

Then, after working for two years at Mis En Place restaurant in Tampa, Florida, Gundy returned to the Detroit area and got a job at Forte in Birmingham as a saucier.

“It was one of my favorite jobs,” Gundy, 38, said. “All I did all day long was make soup, stock and sauces.”

He eventually became a line cook there, designing dishes and learning whatever he could. And after stints at Forte, Fiddlehead’s in Royal Oak, Townhouse in Birmingham, Tribute in Farmington Hills and The Whitney in Detroit, Gundy was hired as Cork’s executive chef in 2013.

The Madison Heights resident said that when he has time in the spring and the fall, he enjoys foraging for wild mushrooms at local and state parks and often utilizes them in his cooking.

“Right now I have about 400 pounds to work with,” he said.

Gundy also sells his finds to many local chefs. And sometimes he ships hundreds of pounds of maitakes (also known as hen-of-the-woods) to Kurt Hoenack, a farmer and mycologist in Seattle, in exchange for truffles, chanterelle mushrooms or candy cap mushrooms (which he said taste like maple syrup).

Gundy said he enjoys that “you can sometimes cook a dish and its ‘smell brings back a memory.’ ”

For example, the smell of peanuts evokes a baseball game, he said. “And every time I make an apple cinnamon dessert it reminds me of waking up to my mom’s fresh cinnamon rolls when I was a kid. That’s one of the reasons I love food.”

The chef said he based the recipe for the meatballs on some lamb sausages he once had at Phoenicia Restaurant in Birmingham.

“Those sausages boggled my mind,” he said. “And although my dish is very different from theirs, it launched mine.”

And he chose the Cobb salad because “it’s beautiful and filling” and his poblano dressing gives it a different spin than the traditional Cobb made famous by the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood in the 1920s.

“I don’t worry about getting awards,” Gundy said. “I just want to cook good food and I go where the ingredients tell me to go.”

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sauteed Squash and Chimichurri

Pork tenderloin and veggies

3 pieces of pork tenderloin (1 pound to 1 1/2 pounds each) with fat or connective tissue removed

Sea salt to taste

1/8 cup of freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon cooking oil

14 medium-sized fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch coins

3 medium-sized zucchini, seeded and diced small

3 medium-sized yellow squash, seeded and diced small

Chimichurri sauce

1 cup parsley leaves, packed tight

1 cup cilantro leaves, packed tight

Pinch of chili flakes

1 small clove of garlic

1 cup oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

To prepare the chimichurri

Blend all of the above ingredients in blender or a food processor. Add salt to taste.

To prepare the pork tenderloins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season pork tenders with sea salt and pepper. Place a large sauté pan on high heat and place two drops of cooking oil in the pan about the size of a quarter. Swirl oil in pan until it coats the bottom. Place the pork in the pan when the oil just barely starts to smoke and turn the burner down to medium heat. Once one side is caramelized (about 3 to 4 minutes), flip the pork tenders over and place in oven. Roast in oven about 4 minutes until medium rare. (Good pork should be eaten medium rare.) Pull pork from oven and place each tender on a resting rack or plate for 5 minutes before slicing. Place a new sauté pan on medium high heat and drop cooking oil in the pan about the size of a quarter. When the pan is hot, add fingerlings, squash and zucchini and sauté until they start to brown, then season with salt and pepper.

To serve the pork tenderloins

Place the vegetable mixture on four plates. Slice the pork tenderloins and place on top of the vegetables. Garnish with the chimichurri sauce and enjoy. Serves 4.

Per serving: 1,084 calories; 68 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 56 percent calories from fat); 51 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 170 mg cholesterol; 988 mg sodium; 73 g protein; 8 g fiber.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Labneh, Pomegranate Syrup and Mint

2 pounds local ground lamb

2 tablespoons ground allspice

2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons salt

1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup dried currants (if you can’t find currants, dried blueberries will suffice)

1 egg

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup milk

4 quarts chicken stock

1/4 cup labneh per plate (see note)

1/8 cup pomegranate syrup per plate

2 tablespoons mint per plate

2 tablespoons chopped parsley per plate

Mix all ingredients except the labneh, pomegranate syrup, parsley, chicken stock and mint in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Alternatively, mix by hand being very thorough. After mixing , form meatballs into 2-ounce spheres. (You should get between 18 and 20 mini meatballs.) Bring the chicken stock to a simmer on medium heat. (Use an 8-quart pot to allow for displacement) Drop the meatballs into the stock, cooking the meatballs until their internal temperature reaches 140 degrees (about 5 minutes). Remove the meatballs from the stock.

Smear the labneh onto four individual plates. Top with the meatballs. Then generously drizzle the pomegranate syrup over them. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and mint and serve. (You can skim oil off the stock and reserve for a fantastic flavored lentil soup.)

Note: Labneh is a thick Middle-Eastern strained yogurt. My favorite brand is Ulker. The labneh and the pomegranate syrup can be purchased at Middle Eastern-style grocery stores. Serves 4.

Per serving: 1,100 calories; 68 g fat (20 g saturated fat; 56 percent calories from fat); 56 g carbohydrates; 38 g sugar; 220 mg cholesterol; 4,042 mg sodium; 70 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Gundy Cobb Salad with Avocado and Poblano Dressing

salad

3 heads of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

5 five-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper, then grilled and chopped

2 medium size ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 bunches of scallions, sliced

2 cups crumbled blue cheese

2 cups freshly cooked chopped bacon

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

1 avocado, diced and seasoned with salt and pepper

Dressing

1 cup buttermilk (I like Calder Dairy or Guernsey Dairy Farms)

2 cups Hellmann’s mayonnaise

1 large poblano pepper roasted, skinned, seeded and pureed

1 avocado, pureed

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, add chopped romaine and enough dressing to your liking. Place all the other ingredients on top of the romaine in wedges so they look like pie portions. Makes 4 entree-sized servings.

Per serving (with half of the dressing): 1,484 calories; 110 g fat (33 g saturated fat; 67 percent calories from fat); 29 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 454 mg cholesterol; 3,225 mg sodium; 96 g protein; 10 g fiber.

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