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Chris Gadulka, the chef/partner at the Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Birmingham, says he first got into cooking at the age of 12 or 13 when his parents were away on trip and he and his sister got hungry, opened up a can of soup and ate it cold from the can.

"But that got real old, real quick," Gadulka said.

The first thing he remembers making was a loaf of bread. "I had no idea what was doing and didn't know anything about proofing so it was terrible," Gadulka said.

As his cooking progressed, his interest increased so he decided to take several culinary classes while attending Divine Child High School in Dearborn and then went on to get a degree in 1998 in culinary arts from Schoolcraft College.

"A lot of culinary school students graduate from culinary school and think to themselves, 'I can be a chef' but the thing is they don't know half of what they need to. It goes beyond just cooking. You have to know food costs, your competition, what your potential guests are going to want. You need to be passionate about the food on the plate and know why it's on the plate. You need to be a restaurateur as opposed to just being a chef," he says.

Over the years, Gadulka, 39, has done both cooking and management stints at several Michigan restaurants including Ernesto's in Plymouth, Sean O'Callaghan's in Plymouth and Milford and Mediterrano in Ann Arbor.

But perhaps the highlight was working for a year for renowned Chef Takashi Yagihashi at the now-closed Tribute restaurant in Farmington Hills.

"He was very thorough and detail-oriented. Everything there was uber quality and super fresh. It's where I really got to see a chef put his ego and reputation on every single plate for every single guest every single night," Gadulka said.

In 2007, the Bloomfield Hills resident got a job at Fleming's in Livonia as a sous chef and in under four years became chef/partner, moving from the Livonia to the Birmingham location in 2010.

The chef says he makes breakfast at home three or four days a week and dinner around two nights a week for his daughter Gwen, an engineering student at Schoolcraft College. And he says those meals often reflect his English heritage on his mother's side and his Polish heritage on his father's side.

The chili recipe was chosen because "It is something I've always done," he said. "My dad used to make it on weekends. But I have tweaked his recipe by using my own combination of desired spices, adding chocolate, using steak instead of hamburger and eliminating the beans."

He created this slaw recipe for the tacos to replicate the type of slaw you would get in Mexico on the street.

"It doesn't use mayo and it's very simple — just three or four ingredients. It's all acid and salt," Gadulka said. His English grandmother taught him how to make Yorkshire pudding.

"She had no recipe, just did it from memory and always (complained) about the flour we have in America. And I'm the only one in my family who still knows how to make it because no one else ever asked," he said.

Judith Harris Solomon is a metro Detroit freelance writer. Contact her at judyfreelance@aol.com.

Steakhouse Chili

1 pound steak (chuck roast or boneless sirloin) cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 ounces tequila

2 yellow onions, diced

1 garlic bulb, crushed

3 ribs of celery, diced

2 bell peppers (any color), diced and seeded

2 chipotle peppers in adobe, diced

6 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons cumin

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons oregano

4 Roma Tomatoes, diced and seeded

8-10 ounces beer

1/4 cup dark chocolate, melted

6 tablespoons mesa flour

4 tablespoons water

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet on the stove top with a high flame. Add 1 tablespoon cooking oil to skillet, when the oil is hot add the seasoned beef and sear until brown and crust is being formed. When the beef is seared remove from the pan and reserve, turn the flame off to the skillet and deglaze with tequila, reserve.

Heat a large pot on the stove top on medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon cooking oil. When the oil is hot add the diced onions and cook until theonions are slightly brown. Add the garlic, celery, bell peppers, and chipotle peppers, cook until all of the vegetables have softened slightly. Return the reserved beef to the pot as well as reserved deglazed tequila. Add all of the spices and stir well, reduce flame to low. Add tomatoes and beer and allow to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After 1 hour add the dark chocolate and stir thoroughly. Mix the mesa flour with the water and add to the chili if a thicker consistency is desired. Allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Serves 5.

Per serving: 336 calories; 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 35 percent calories from fat); 30 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 39 mg cholesterol; 2,113 mg sodium; 21 g protein; 10 g fiber.

Carnitas Street Tacos

For the meat

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 pound pork shoulder cut into large pieces

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons cumin

1 small onion, rough chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 orange, quartered

2 cups chicken broth

12 to 16 white corn tortillas

Lime wedges

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat, season pork shoulder with salt and arrange pork in the pot and sear until brown. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Transfer pork to a baking sheet, and save the liquid. Place pork into the oven and baste with the liquid every 7-10 minutes until the pork browns. Shred the pork with 2 forks and add more of the reserved cooking liquid. When well shredded and browned, remove the pork from the oven and reserve.

For the taco slaw

2 cups green cabbage, shredded fine

1 carrot, peeled and shredded fine

5 tablespoons cilantro, rough chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a bowl mix all ingredients thoroughly. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Warm a skillet on low heat and lightly warm the tortillas. Remove tortillas from the skillet and place the pork mixture on top of each tortilla. Drizzle the cooking

liquid on top of the pork and then add the taco slaw. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes 14 servings

Per serving: 165 calories; 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 21 mg cholesterol; 1,364 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 2.5 g fiber.

Braised Short Ribs with Yorkshire Pudding

For the ribs

1 pound beef short ribs

3 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 ribs of celery, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

5 stems of rosemary

10 sprigs of thyme

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

4 cups red wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a Dutch oven on the stove top with medium high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Add cooking oil to the Dutch oven. When hot, sear the short ribs on all sides until crusty golden brown. Remove the short ribs from the Dutch oven and reserve the extra oil and pan drippings for the Yorkshire puddings. Then place the pot back on the stove. When hot, add onions and cook until lightly caramelized. Then add the celery, carrot and garlic. Cook until lightly softened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat, add the short ribs back to the pot and ensure they are covered in liquid. Cover the pot and cook for 3 hours or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and allow the short ribs to rest. Strain vegetables and skim any fat that comes to the surface. Reserve the remaining liquid. Combine the short ribs with the liquid and serve.

For the Yorkshire pudding

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons pan drippings from the short ribs

1 cup cake or pastry flour, sifted

1/4 tsp salt

4 tablespoons shortening

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine eggs, milk and the short rib drippings. Add flour and salt and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until very cold. Using a muffin tin, add 1 tablespoon of shortening to each cup and place in the oven until the shortening ishot and slightly smoking. Add batter to the muffin tins to 2/3 full. Immediately place into the oven and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. When risen and crisp, remove from the oven and unmold. Place the short ribs and Yorkshire pudding on a serving plate and ladle the braising liquid over both. Serves 4.

Per serving: 835 calories; 56 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 60 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 158 mg cholesterol; 1,102 mg sodium; 24 g protein; 4 g fiber.

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