Chef Jeremiah Korpusik fires up the fantastic

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Jeremiah Korpusik, the executive chef of the Sardine Room in Plymouth, said he can remember helping his mom make manicotti from scratch when he was just 8 or 9.

“I was always hungry and always watching her cook,” he said. “She’s a fantastic Southern-style, soul food cook. I grew up on all the classics…red beans and rice, fried pork chops, fried chicken, meatloaf…all the comfort foods. She doesn’t have a lot of culinary knowledge but she knows how to make great food. Her dad was a cook in the Navy,” he said.

Born in Detroit, Korpusik’s family moved to Port Sanilac when he was 12. He got his first job at a local restaurant called The Landing at the age of 15. Then, after moving to Kalamazoo to attend Western University, he worked at several different restaurants.

“I hopped around a lot to learn the trade, spending about six months at each one,” he said.

At the age of 22, Korpusik became the manager of the London Grill Singapore Pub in Kalamazoo. And it was there that he first became acquainted with such classical Indian dishes including naan, dahl and paneer. Soon after, while working as a sauté cook at a resort in Portland, Maine, the chef found out that his girlfriend (now his wife), Monica, had been recruited to teach special education in Hawaii and he decided to join her there.

Koropusik ended up spending four years in Oahu, Hawaii working as a sauté chef — first at Town restaurant for James Beard nominee chef Ed Kinney and later for chef/owner Colin Nikita at Sidestreet Inn.

“Nikita, famous for his Hawaiian soul food, was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV show,” Jeremiah said.

After leaving Hawaii, Korpusik worked as a sous chef for two years in Charlotte, North Carolina before coming back to Michigan in 2010. Since then, he has worked as a line cook at Coach Insignia, as a sous chef at Joe Muer’s Seafood in Detroit and as the executive chef at the Garage Grill and Fuel Bar in Northville.

The Detroit resident said he started off cooking the basics, then tweaking them to make them more modern.

“I’m a huge fan of peasant food and making it more refined by using better local products. My motto is ‘local first, organic when possible,’” he said.

Korpusik said he likes this green papaya salad because it has more substance than most green salads and variations of it can be found in Hawaiian, Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino cuisines. “It’s one of my favorite salads,” he said. “And I like to add shrimp or crab to it as well.”

The 35-year-old also said he likes to make a big batch of the Kalua pig recipe about once a month. “But it’s not the traditional style at all,” he said. “In Hawaii, they put a whole pig in a hole with tea leaves and chicken wire and cook it for 30 hours. When I make it here it’s pretty much just a big pork butt, water and sea salt that I cook it for a few hours. I like to make a big batch and freeze it for sandwiches and nachos,” he said.

Adds Korpusik: “It used to be that the chef trade wasn’t really respected. But it’s become a lot more professional in the last few years. A lot of people my age went out and traveled and learned the craft and came back with the knowledge, talent and skills to teach upcoming chefs in this area. And a lot have learned by going to Schoolcraft. I’ve trained a lot of kids from there. They get a good start there,” he said.

Kalua Pig with Basmati Rice

1 pork butt (bone-in, approximately 5 pounds)

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

1/2 cup Hawaiian sea salt

1 quart water

Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven and cook for four hours at 350 degrees. Then shred pork. Serve on Basmati Rice (recipe follows).

Basmati Rice

3 cups water

2 cups rice

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon salt

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Add rice. Cover and simmer on low for 22 minutes. Serves 8.

Per serving: 723 calories; 38 g fat (15 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 36 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 206 mg cholesterol; 2,371 mg sodium; 56 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Cold Macaroni Salad

1 box elbow macaroni noodles (cooked/cooled/dried)

2 cups sweet peas

3 carrots, shredded

1/2 sweet onion, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 cups mayo

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 578 calories; 42 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 65 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 4.5 g sugar; 23 mg cholesterol; 974 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Green Papaya Salad with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette


1/2 green papaya, seeded, shaved thin on a mandolin

1 cup long beans, blanched and cut into 1 inch long strips

1 cup bean sprouts

1 tablespoon peanuts

1 tablespoon mint, torn

1 tablespoon cilantro, torn

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

1/4 cup fish sauce (I prefer either the Bliss or Red Boat brand)

2 limes, both zest and juice

2 tablespoons honey

2 Fresno chiles, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon mint, chopped

1 tablespoons ginger puree

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin on a mandolin

1 cup vegetable oil

Sea salt to taste

To prepare the Fish Sauce Vinaigrette:

Put all the ingredients (except oil) into a blender and blend. Then slowly pour the oil into the mixture.

To assemble:

Put salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss with vinaigrette. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 408 calories; 37 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 82 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 13 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 826 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Kalbi Short Ribs

2 pounds 1/4 inch-cut short ribs with bone in

1 tablespoon Gochujang Korean chili paste

2 tablespoons Sambal Oelok garlic chili paste

1 1/2 cups pineapple juice

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon ginger puree

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup mirin rice wine

1 bunch of scallions, smashed

Mix all the ingredients (except the scallions and the sesame seeds) together. Pour over the short ribs and marinate for at least three days, making sure the short ribs stay submerged in the marinade. When ready, grill the short ribs on both sides, three to four minutes per side. To serve, cut in between the bones and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Serves 4.

Per serving (without garnish): 413 calories; 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 23 g sugar; 80 mg cholesterol; 2,214 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Coconut and Lychee Tapioca with Passion Fruit Chantilly


1 can coco lopez

1 can lychee

1 can coconut milk

4 ounces water

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 cups of tapioca pearls

Preparation of the Tapioca:

Put the coco lopez, lychee and coconut milk in a blender till smooth. Transfer to a pot. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with 4 ounces of water and pour the mixture into the pot and whisk vigorously. Once the mixture turns into pudding consistency, remove from heat and let chill. Then, in another pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add tapioca. Let boil for fifteen minutes. Then strain and mix the tapioca mixture with the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for an hour.

Passion Fruit Chantilly

8 ounces heavy whipping cream

2 ounces passion fruit, pureed

Sliced strawberries and blueberries

To Prepare The Passion Fruit Chantilly:

Whip the heavy cream. Add the passion fruit puree.

To assemble the Tapioca:

Place sliced berries on top of the tapioca. Then cover the berries with the Chantilly mixture. Serves 6.

Per serving: 625 calories; 38 g fat (30 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 68 g carbohydrates; 16 g sugar; 55 mg cholesterol; 57 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber.