At home with chef Eric Ward

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit native Eric Ward, executive chef of Joe Muer Seafood in Detroit, said he had absolutely no interest in either food or cooking when he was a kid.

“Instead I fell into it,” Ward said. “While attending Northern Michigan University and not doing well, a buddy asked me if I wanted to go with him out West. So the two of us went to Winter Park, Colorado, where we got jobs as dishwashers at a dude ranch called Ski Idlewild. We washed dishes at breakfast and dinner, skied in-between and partied at night.”

Ward stayed in Colorado for 16 years, eventually working as a chef at a restaurant called The Slope and later as the chef/owner of three different restaurants: Tizzy Reds (Mexican), Gut Busters Pizza and finally, the white-tablecloth Restaurant on the Ridge. But in 1996, he decided to come back home and he went to work for Matt Prentice as a sous chef at Sebastions at Somerset Mall. Before long, he became the executive chef at Café Jardin. A few months later he went to the Kingsley Hotel in Bloomfield Hills to coordinate and remodel the opening of Northern Lakes Seafood Co., Deli Unique Bloomfield Hills and the Kingsley Banquettes.

The chef was also at the helm of the Novi Chophouse and Coach Insignia during his stay with Prentice and in 2008 became the company’s corporate chef. He moved to Joe Muer Seafood in January 2012.

“I love the adrenalin rush of the line at Muer’s,” said Ward, who lives in White Lake Township. “The whole thing is like a composition. It’s 10 guys trying to put the food together without a hitch. That’s why I love it so much. It’s the perfect match for me.”

Ward said he chose the recipes printed here because they are easy to prepare.

“When you are at home, after working 14 hours a day, you want something easy,” he said. “I don’t want to make something that takes five hours. And I also try to do things that are seasonal like the asparagus, the morels and the salmon. There is nothing simpler or more sublime than a fresh fatty piece of grilled Chinook salmon. And because it’s the highest in omega 3 fatty acids of all salmon, it’s very heart healthy, too.”

Roasted Fennel, Spring Onion and Radish Potato Salad

1 8-ounce fennel bulb

4 ounces spring onion

2 pounds fingerling potatoes

4 radishes, halved then sliced

1 large celery stalk, diced

1/2 large English cucumber peeled, seeded and diced

4 farm fresh organic eggs

2 ounces grain mustard

2 ounces heavy mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sea salt or no-salt seasoning

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon dill, diced

1 tablespoon parsley, diced

1 tablespoon chives, diced

An hour prior to starting the recipe, wrap fennel and spring onion in foil. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven until fork tender. Remove from oven, let cool and slice. Scrub, rinse and quarter the potatoes. Boil in salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside. Hard cook eggs in boiling water for approximately 12 minutes, then drain and shock in ice water. Once eggs are cool, peel, dice and reserve. In mixing bowl, incorporate mayonnaise, mustard and eggs. Add radish, cucumber, celery, onion and fennel to the mayo mixture. Add potatoes, season with salt and pepper and finish with the fresh herbs. Serves 4.

Please note: The potato salad is best when made a day in advance, so its ingredients can steep.

Per serving: 378 calories; 16 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 44 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 192 mg cholesterol; 929 mg sodium; 12 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Michigan Asparagus and Morels

1 1/2 pounds Michigan asparagus

1/2 pound fresh morels

2 ounces cornstarch

1 ounce extra virgin olive oil

1/4 pound whole unsalted butter

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Snipped parsley and snipped chives, to taste

Preparation of the asparagus: Remove the woody white bottoms of the asparagus. Wash the asparagus, toss in the olive oil and season with pepper. Grill until just starting to soften, then remove from grill and set aside.

Preparation of the morels: Slice the morels in half lengthwise from top through the stem. Soak in water and agitate to remove any foreign matter (pine needles, grass , moss, dirt, etc.). Remove from water, pat dry slightly. Place morels in bowl, then toss in corn starch until coated. Strain excess starch. Preheat a 10-inch saute pan over medium heat. Melt half the butter until spitting, add morels and season with salt and pepper. Tossing the pan, add remaining butter and cook morels until tender, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Finish with snipped herbs. Remove from pan and serve along with the asparagus. Serves 4.

Per serving: 351 calories; 30 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 77 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 61 mg cholesterol; 133 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Grilled Columbia River King Salmon (Chinook) with Chimich Urri Sauce


4 six-ounce salmon filets

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste

Turn on grill. Coat a terrycloth towel with olive oil and rub it across the grill to season its grates. Heat grill to medium high. Pat dry the salmon pieces. Rub with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Grill to desired temperature (medium rare is my choice.). Serves 4.

Note: If you overcook fish, that is when it becomes fishy.

Chimmichurri Sauce

1/4 cup parsley (rough chop)

1/4 cup cilantro (rough chop)

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Sea salt, cracked black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste

Rinse and shake parsley and cilantro dry, then rough chop. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend for approximately 15 seconds. Remove from blender and place in a serving cup.

Per serving: 422 calories; 35 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 75 percent calories from fat); 0.5 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 71 mg cholesterol; 318 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 0.2 g fiber.

Flourless Chocolate Torte with Macerated Berries and Whipped Cream


14 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

6 organic eggs

Let eggs come to room temperature. Beat the eggs with the sugar for 5 to 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl over hot water in a saucepan. Then fold all together. Pour batter into a 9-inch pan. Put the pan in a pan of water and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean.

Macerated berries

1 pound strawberries, sliced

2 ounces sugar

1 ounce Grand Marnier (or any liquor of your choice)

1 can whipping cream

To serve

Mix all the ingredients (except the whipping cream) together. Spoon on top of torte. Place whipping cream on top. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 656 calories; 47 g fat (28 g saturated fat; 64 percent calories from fat); 59 g carbohydrates; 51 g sugar; 218 mg cholesterol; 244 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber.