At home with chef Zach Peterlin

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Zachariah Peterlin, chef/owner of Peterlin's Restaurant & Bar in Farmington, started in the restaurant business when he was 15, but by that point tragedy had already given him years of kitchen experience.

The chef says he vividly remembers helping his mom make meatloaf when he was around 10.

"My mom died when I was 12, so from then, on I did all the cooking for my father and brother," he says.

Peterlin, 34, grew up in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula and started working in the restaurant of the local Best Western Hotel, first as a dishwasher and eventually as a sous chef. From the age of 18 until 23, he continued working there while attending college at Northern Michigan University nearly 60 miles away.

"It was a huge commitment," Peterlin says. "I commuted four days a week and sometimes that stretch of road had so much snow — three times more that we get down here — that it was scary."

After graduating from the university in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in hospitality management, Peterlin worked as a kitchen coach at the J. Alexander's in Livonia for two years, then as executive chef at Bistro 127 and Bella Luna, both in South Lyon.

In 2012, after a five-year stint at John Cowley & Sons Restaurant in Farmington, Peterlin decided to open his own establishment just four blocks away.

"All three of these recipes are for things I cooked with my mother and grandmother as a child, but I've tweaked them," the Farmington resident says. "For exampIe, I added the pureed onions, carrots and celery to the meatloaf to give it more flavor and to make it nice and moist. And I like to brown the meatloaf slices before serving because that gives them extremely flavorful crusts," he says.

Peterlin also tweaked the potatoes au gratin recipe by using heavy cream rather than regular milk.

"The cream gives the dish a richer, velvety texture," he says.

And for the bread pudding, he prefers to use cinnamon raisin bread because "it's more flavorful than the Italian or white bread that is commonly used."

"What I like about these recipes is that they're not too challenging to make at home and they also have good quality flavor," Peterlin says.

Chef Zach Peterlin shapes beef and pork into a roll for his meatloaf dish.

Zach Peterlin's Meatloaf

2 pounds 80 percent-lean ground beef

1 pound ground pork

4 eggs

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup each of carrot, celery and white onion (diced & pureed)

3 ounces beef consomme

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the ground beef and ground pork together. Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, ketchup, pureed vegetables, consommé, salt, pepper and garlic and knead until well combined. Pack into a loaf shape and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in a pan for approximately 1 hour or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing. Then brown each slice in a skillet for two minutes per side.

Serve with au gratin potatoes and the veggies of your choice. Serves 4.

Per serving: 364 calories; 19 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 22 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 63 mg cholesterol; 580 mg sodium; 26 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Au Gratin Potatoes

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups 2 percent milk

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

5 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)

1/2 cup chopped onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add potatoes and onion. Then transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Uncover; bake 30-40 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender. Serves 8

Per serving: 224 calories; 10 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 26 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 35 mg cholesterol; 605 mg sodium; 26 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Chef Zach Peterlin, chef/owner of Peterlin's Restaurant and Bar in Farmington, prepares bread pudding sauce.

Bread Pudding

2 loaves cinnamon raisin bread

1/2 quart of heavy cream

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon allspice

Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Layer the bread in the pan two pieces high. Combine and then whisk all the other ingredients to make a custard and pour over the top, cover with plastic wrap and tin foil, refrigerate and let sit for 24 hours. Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes in a 250 degree preheated oven. Serves 8.

Per serving: 455 calories; 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 22 percent calories from fat); 54 g carbohydrates; 42 g sugar; 45 mg cholesterol; 260 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Zach Peterlin slices a cooked meatloaf.