At home with chef Travis Waynick

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

When Travis Waynick was a boy, he envisioned becoming a stunt man “even though I didn’t know what it meant. I watched a lot of re-runs of “The Fall Guy” where Lee Majors was a Hollywood stuntman-turned-bounty hunter who saved the world from the bad guys,” he said.

And although Waynick, 38, now the executive chef and co-owner of the Rochester Tap Room in Rochester Hills, remembers trying to make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese “and messing it up” when he was around 8 or 9, he says food did not really play a big role in his childhood.

“My mom was not a good cook. We ate a lot of frozen veggies and Domino’s Pizza. In fact, I still remember their phone number,” he said.

At the age of 15, while attending Walled Lake Central High School, Waynick began working as a dishwasher at Key Largo restaurant, also in Walled Lake.

“One day someone didn’t show up, so I had to go to the salad station. Then I just kept moving around their kitchen, learning about cooking,” he says.

In 1999, Waynick left Key Largo and began working as a line cook at the No. VI Chophouse, a Matt Prentice restaurant in Novi. And after working for several years at several different Prentice Group restaurants, he ended up becoming the corporate executive chef in charge of all of the company’s food operations.

Then, after a two-year stint as executive chef at Andiamo in West Bloomfield, the chef opened the Rochester Tap Room about 14 months ago.

Waynick says he greatly admires three different great chefs: Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Napa Valley, Michael Symon of Roast in Detroit and Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago because “they are masters of the craft. Actually I admire any chef … famous or not … who fights the grind every day to do what he or she loves.”

When questioning Waynick about his cooking style, he replied: “Is ADD a style? I get bored very easily making the same things, so I like to be creative when I can. So I do a lot of specials at the restaurant, as well as five-course beer tasting dinners and offsite catering.”

When the Commerce Township resident has the time to cook at home for his wife, Rachel, and his children, Skylar, 17, and Kai, 6, he says “It’s pretty simple. We do a lot of charcuterie snack-like meals.”

Waynick says he created the Margarita recipe printed here because, “unlike the mixes you can buy, my version is fresh and has no chemicals. And the zest sets it apart and makes it different.” He chose this tuna recipe because “I like that it’s very fresh and has clean, natural flavors. I purposely am not adding a ton of ingredients to change the flavors,” he said. . And he came up with this pork chop and sweet potato recipe because “I’m a huge fan of everything pig,” he says. “And the recipe’s sweet potato component with its raisins and citrus is my take on Moroccan cuisine. It’s like comfort food that comes from another country.”

Ahi Tuna and Edamame Salad

Ingredients for the tuna

2 six-ounce Ahi tuna steaks

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation of the tuna

Season your tuna steaks with the salt and pepper. Heat a wide fry pan on medium heat. Add oil to the hot pan. Sear the steaks on both sides about 45 seconds to a minute. Pull from pan and let cool, being careful not to cook the tuna throughout, as the meat will dry out.

Ingredients for the salad

1 cup shelled and blanched edamame

1 bunch hydro watercress

1/4 cup spicy peanuts

1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper

1-ounce citrus oil

Pinch kosher salt

Pinch cracked black pepper

To prepare the salad

In small mixing bowl, combine the edamame, watercress leaves, peanuts, and bell pepper. Drizzle oil over mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and split between 4 plates. Slice tuna steaks thinly and fan out on top of salad. Serves 4.

Per serving: 323 calories; 21 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 59 percent calories from fat); 7 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 33 mg cholesterol; 134 mg sodium; 28 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Marinated Pork Chops with Sweet Potato, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Ingredients for the pork chops

4 six-ounce pork chops

2 sprigs rosemary

1 orange

1 cup semi- sweet red wine (like a Pinot Noir)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Slice the orange. Combine all ingredients into a bowl. Add the pork chops and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Ingredients for the vegetables

2 large sweet potatoes cut into wedges

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup beer

1/4 orange juice

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley

Heat a braising pan over medium heat. Add oil. Add red onion and cook for 2 minutes, then add cumin, chipotle, sweet potato, pine nuts, beer and orange juice. After about five minutes, add the raisins. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and toss with the parsley

When the above vegetable mix has about 10 minutes left to cook, remove pork chops from the marinade. Place on pre-heated grill on medium heat and grill for approximately 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Serves 4.

Per serving: 714 calories; 37 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 42 g carbohydrates; 20 g sugar; 132 mg cholesterol; 1,112 mg sodium; 45 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Fresh Margaritas

3 limes

3 lemons

1 orange

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup tequila

1 cup orange liqueur


2 limes

1 orange

1/4 cup kosher salt

Lots of ice

Using a micro plane, zest the limes, lemons and orange into a bowl. Squeeze the juice from all the fruit into the bowl. Add sugar to the juice and refrigerate for 3 hours to blend flavors.

Chill the tequila and orange liqueur. While that’s chilling, make your garnish by zesting one of the limes into a shallow bowl and mix with the kosher salt. Slice the remaining lime and the orange into rounds.

To assemble

Turn your glass upside down to coat the rim with the salt and lime zest mixture. Then layer the glass with ice and the lime and orange slices. Combine the tequila, orange liqueur and fruit juices in a pitcher and mix well. Pour over the ice and citrus slices in the glasses.