While Rolling Stone may have inspired many readers to find their way into the music or entertainment world, it inspired Sean Gartland, owner of Fenton, MI-based Feast Gourmet Kitchen Shop to take a completely different career path.
“I discovered that there was such a thing as culinary school while thumbing through a Rolling Stone magazine during my senior English class in high school. I decided that’s where I wanted to focus my time,” he said.
So, taking his love of food that took shape in his childhood years and his newfound direction, Gartland headed off to culinary school after graduation, eventually finding himself in Chicago, a move that would ignite all of his senses.
“I loved working under great chefs and soaked up the experience like a sponge. Living in Chicago exposed me to so many different cultures, cooking styles and exotic ingredients,” he said.
But, after settling down and realizing the demands of the restaurant industry just weren’t feasible at that point in his life, Gartland went back to school to finish his bachelor’s degree. To supplement his income, he took a job at Chicago-based housewares store and cooking school, The Chopping Block. The opportunity allowed him to realize that it would be possible to make a career in the food industry work for him, albeit not in the way he originally planned.
“I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was teaching everything from sushi basics to handmade pasta. It was a blast being able to explore so many different topics and share knowledge with home cooks,” he said, adding, “The irony was, I was trying to complete my degree to get out of cooking for a living and at the same time, I was falling in love with cooking all over again.”
Armed with a newfound passion for cooking, food and business, Gartland returned to Michigan and opened Feast Gourmet Kitchen Shop in 2017. The store, he said, was something he felt the growing community was missing.
“We live in the small town of Fenton, just north of Ann Arbor and south of Flint. Since moving in I have seen a huge amount of growth in the community. In the back of my head I had this dream of bringing the Chopping Block style concept to my community,” he said.
After being in the game for more than two years now, Gartland sets himself apart from big box stores and online retail sites by putting the focus completely on the customer. This, he said, works in two ways — the way he curates the goods that adorn the walls and shelves of Feast, as well as the opportunities he takes to demonstrate products in the store’s classes.
“I can’t possibly carry everything that people need for their kitchens. But what sets us apart from big box stores and online shopping is the opportunity [for customers]to actually come into our kitchen and experience the products first-hand while they create a meal together with other foodies,” he said.
And one of his favorite things about teaching the classes, besides his ability to share his passion and some of his tips and tricks from his restaurant days with those who attend, is the way that the participants interact with each other and how friendships are forged, and relationships strengthened.
To read more about Feast, pick up the September/October issue of Gourmet Insider.