At home with chef Aaron Wright

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Aaron "Chicago" Wright, executive chef of Bistro Joe's in Birmingham, moved to Michigan from Chicago when he was just 16.

“While attending Southfield High School, the kids said I had a different accent and started calling me ‘Chicago,’ and I’ve been called that ever since,” Wright said.

After graduating Wright attended Schoolcraft College for six months but left to work first as a sauté cook at Bahama Breeze in Troy and then as a line cook at J. Alexander in Troy. After working there for five years, the chef decided he wanted to pursue a music career and became the CEO of a company called Navigating Records.

“But after six months that fell apart and I decided to go back to cooking,” he said.

Then, after a stint at P.F. Chang as a line leader, Wright got a job at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Troy where he said Ed Tactus, the chef, and Steve Salmon, the general manager, became great mentors.

“Steve was really tough on me and taught me how to survive in this business,” he said.

When Bistro Joe’s opened in 2012, Wright, at the recommendation of Tactus, started working there, first at the appetizer station, then moving from grill to saute to executive line leader. He was appointed the restaurant’s sous chef in 2014 and named executive chef in 2015.

While working at Bistro Joe’s, Wright asked Dave Gilbert, at that time the chef at Forest Grill in Birmingham (and currently the chef/proprietor of Marais in Grosse Pointe), if he could work with him two hours a day for free because “he did a different style of cooking that I also wanted to learn about,” the Troy resident said.

“Gilbert showed me how to do all kinds of cuts like mincing, dicing, rough chop, julienne and taught me about curing meat and about charcuterie and fromagerie. I did it for six months and learned a lot there that I could use at Bistro Joe’s,” Wright said.

The chef said he clearly remembers helping his mother and grandmother cook when he was just 7 or 8 years old.

“My mom learned to cook from my Grandma, who always wanted to own her own bakery,” he said. “And every September we would start thinking up a Thanksgiving dinner that we wanted her to cook for us. It was always a feast. The items I particularly liked were deep fried turkey, peach cobbler and garlic rosemary lamb chops. My grandma is 78 years old now and she still helps make our family Thanksgiving dinner every year.”

When he has the time, Chef Wright still likes to cook for both his mother and also for his 2-year-old son.

Wright said he chose to share his filet mignon recipe because “We eat a lot of red meat at home and I thought it was cool to jazz it up by wrapping it with bacon and adding the Asiago butter. And I came up with this melon salad recipe because it’s so good in the summer. A lot of people probably wouldn’t mix melon with arugula and feta and prosciutto like I do. And I think the caramel and olive oil dressing adds a unique and delicious flavor. It’s one of my favorite home recipes,” he said.

Adds the chef: “I like to be a mini artiste when I’m plating food either at home or at the restaurant. I think it is just as important as the cooking. The food has to look nice.”

Melon Salad

6 ounces arugula

2 ounces red onions, peeled and julienned

2 ounces feta cheese

6 mint leaves

3 ounces of honeydew, cut into balls

3 ounces of cantaloupe, cut into balls

1 ounce olive oil

1 ounce caramel topping

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the salad:

Combine the caramel topping with the olive oil. Place the rest of the ingredients in a salad bowl. Lightly drizzle the caramel mixture over all. Serves 2.

Per serving: 299 calories; 21 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 24 g carbohydrates; 20 g sugar; 25 mg cholesterol; 418 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp Caprese

4 tiger shrimp

4 slices prosciutto

4 ounces Buffalo mozzarella slices

1 Roma tomato, sliced

1 ounce basil pesto

1/2 ounce balsamic glaze

Preparation: Clean shrimp. Wrap each one with a slice of prosciutto. Place wrapped shrimp in a hot sauté pan. Cook two minutes on each side.

To plate: Place mozzarella slices on a platter. Top with a tomato slice, then shrimp. Lastly, drizzle the balsamic glaze and the basil pesto over all. Serves 2.

Per serving: 261 calories; 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 5 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 108 mg cholesterol; 1,093 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Ahi Tuna with Black Rice, Cucumber Slaw and Avocado Cream

2 6-8 ounce pieces of Ahi tuna

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

To prepare the Tuna: Season tuna with salt and pepper to taste. Place one ounce of olive oil in a hot saute pan. Heat olive oil until it sizzles. Add tuna. Cook 1 minute on each side (for medium rare).

For the Rice: Cook one cup Black Forbidden rice according to the package directions.

Cucumber Slaw

1 cucumber, julienned

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 ounce avocado, diced

1 ounce red onion, chopped fine

1 ounce crispy wontons, broken up

1 ounce soy sauce

Combine all the ingredients, then toss in soy sauce.

Avocado Cream


1 whole avocado

2 ounces heavy cream

A pinch of wasabi

Salt and pepper to taste

To plate the tuna: Mound the black rice on a plate. Top with the Ahi tuna. Add a mound of cucumber slaw to the plate. Add some avocado cream to the bottom of the plate (between the mounds of tuna and slaw) and spread it with a spoon. Serves 2.

Per serving: 1,039 calories; 46 g fat (11 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 91 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 154 mg cholesterol; 1,150 mg sodium; 73 g protein; 14 g fiber.

Bacon Wrapped Filet mignon with Mushroom Duxelle, Potato Galette and Asiago Butter


1 eight ounce filet mignon

2 pieces applewood bacon

1 black garlic clove, pureed

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the filet

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Wrap the filet in the bacon. Put the wrapped filet in a hot sauté pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Cook approximately 10 minutes for medium. Remove from oven.

Potato Galette

1 raw Idaho potato grated with a cheese slicer

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the Potato Galette

Mix the above ingredients together. Place in a hot saute pan, shape into a patty with a spatula and cook two minutes per side or until each side is nicely browned.

Mushroom Duxelle

1 ounce button mushrooms, chopped rough

1 ounce shiitake mushrooms, chopped rough

1 ounce butter, melted

1/2 ounce fresh thyme

1/2 ounce parsley, chopped

1/2 ounce shallots, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the Mushroom Duxelle

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Place in a sauté pan. Cook for approximately two minutes.

Asiago Butter


4 ounces Asiago cheese

1 ounce parsley, rough chopped

1 ounce cilantro, rough chopped

1/4 pound whipped butter

To assemble:

Place the cooked filet on plate. Top with the potato galette, then the mushroom duxelle and lastly the asiago butter. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 1,157 calories; 88 g fat (51 g saturated fat; 68 percent calories from fat); 36 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 255 mg cholesterol; 1,565 mg sodium; 58 g protein; 5 g fiber.