A new menu has been unveiled at MGM Grand Detroit’s D.PRIME Steakhouse in April, and it’s creator is a Detroit chef on the rise in his hometown.
Executive Chef Derek Mattison worked hard to craft the new menu, but the most compelling part of his story isn’t which vegetable he’s serving on the plate, it’s where he came from and how it shows a commitment from MGM to the local community.
Years and many meals ago, Mattison couldn’t have imagined he would become a chef at a restaurant in a bustling downtown casino. From his start busing tables as a tag-along with his mother when he was just 12, Detroit-born Mattison has climbed the often-grueling ladder to success in the kitchen. And like many Detroiters, Mattison did it with grit and determination, the hard way.
“Ever since I committed myself to working in the kitchen full-time,” Mattison told PlayMichigan in an exclusive interview, “My career has been taking off.”
D.PRIME chef Mattison worked his way up the ladder at MGM Grand
Mattison has worked 11 years at MGM Grand Detroit, from an entry-level position in the kitchen to working under mentors who helped bring him along. That’s how MGM likes to operate.
“Someone can come here and start as a busser, and move up. MGM Grand Detroit is not just a place to get your career started, but to build a career,” said Jason Barczy, Director of Communications for MGM Grand Detroit.
At 12, when he accompanied his mom to her job as a server, Mattison never considered a restaurant job for himself. After graduating from Mumford High School on the northwest side of Detroit, he pursued a much different career.
“I went to school to write computer code, sitting behind a desk,” Mattison says. “But I ended up back in the kitchen, [and this] is actually a lifestyle I’ve chosen.”
Once he was given a chance with MGM Grand, Mattison never looked back.
“When people show the interest [in you], you want to progress. Once I was given the opportunity, that’s when I had to walk through that door. You never know where you may end up, but I am here now.”
Even though he never attended culinary school, Mattison learned through years of observation and training in the fast-paced, demanding environment of a professional kitchen. “I’m a student of experience,” he says.
Now that he’s responsible for his kitchen, dining room, and nearly 50 employees, Mattison feels the need to pay forward his good fortune.
“Being a chef is more than just putting pretty things on the plate,” Mattison explains. “My job is to teach, train, [and] develop, so I can give the next generation the skill set.”
Why does he love the job so much?
“It’s organized chaos, the love of the kitchen, making guests happy. I love putting my passion on the plate for our guests.”
New Menu at D.PRIME Steakhouse
An exciting new menu crafted by Mattison and his staff is designed to provide lighter offerings. The sea bass entree was removed, replaced by offerings like the Branzino chick pea stew, with wilted spinach.
“We added a non-seafood appetizer, new bruschetta cheese, with caviar or no,” says Mattison.
Mattison explains that D.PRIME attracts a number of regular customers who like order dinner with a glass of wine, and his new menu reflects that possibility with complementary flavors.
“[We] brought a new side to the menu,” Mattison says. “I have [always] wanted to add a cornbread skillet, so we did that, with a trio of butters. It’s been so popular that [we] had to make a batch on the fly last week.”
The three butters will make your mouth water: honey ginger, roasted garlic cracked pepper, and sea salt butter.
“The new menu items [are there] to bring a balance of savory and sweet,” Mattison explains.
Already in the first few weeks with several new items, the hot roasted seafood platter, and Cajun items are selling especially well.
People come to MGM Grand Detroit for many reasons: live entertainment, as well as gambling of course. But many are led by their taste buds and the chance to dine in one of Detroit’s best downtown establishments.
“This is a one-of-a-kind experience,” explains Mattison. “We have a lot of seasoned professional staff in front of the house. It’s casual but you still get a fine dining experience. The restaurant is modern, low lighting [with] a speakeasy vibe. We appeal to a diverse crowd. We have offerings for everyone.”
A stroll through D.PRIME Steakhouse illustrates the many options for patrons. There are 298 seats in the dining area, and it also has a modern lounge area that allows sitting in a casual atmosphere. The main bar has 18 seats with TVs and a staff of four bartenders.
Mattison said team members assist in setting the cocktail menu. The wine menu, which hasn’t been touched in a while, is being updated, says the chef.
MGM Grand: Large but local in Detroit and Michigan
Along with their responsibility in serving thousands of patrons every month, D.PRIME and MGM Grand Detroit are committed to being a contributor to the local economy.
According to MGM Grand Detroit, 98% of the vendors they have arrangements with are local.
“My produce mostly comes from Michigan farms,” Mattison explains. “[We have] local microgreens from a Detroit-area farm.”
Mattison explains that even though his kitchen is located within a vast casino/resort, the company is set up to streamline procurement and he operates much like a mom-and-pop restaurant might.
“We follow all the rules that any restaurant would face, and see the same challenges. The industry itself has taken a big hit as far as staff. A lot of people have decided to seek different employment and left this industry. [But] MGM provides so much support that we’ve thrived.
“We do all we can to recruit more staff at job fairs, culinary schools, casinos and restaurant workers. We want to provide careers to Detroiters.”
Photos courtesy of MGM Grand Detroit.