Flint non-profit opens new restaurant, teaching up and coming chefs

Aspiring Young Chefs
Published: May. 14, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Dumplings, pizza, wings, and pasta are all products of the Flint Social Club’s new booth at the Flint Farmer’s Market where chefs are showing students the ins and outs of running a restaurant.

Heartwood is the official name of the new food stall, operated the non-profit.

“All the chefs were very passionate about the food that they wanted to cook, but they just didn’t have any outlets to do it because they were just working kitchens, and then you know just cooking other people’s food essentially,” said Tony Vu, the club’s executive director and founder.

Vu originally opened a Vietnamese restaurant at the stall called Mamang.

Now, it’s where he and Executive Chef Nate Shaw teach how to cook food, and the business behind a restaurant.

“And then the techniques that go behind it. You know I mean, it’s, if you went to culinary school, you have all your knife cuts, but a lot of people don’t go to culinary school and that’s the whole premise of the flint social club, is getting everybody the equal opportunity to learn at that higher level,” Shaw said.

Shaw handles the day to day, the big item on the menu right now is flatbreads.

“I sit down almost every day, come up with new menu items, you know I’m already, I’ve had this menu planned for probably a few months already. And you know, I’m already getting tired of it after two weeks, so that’s going to change rather frequently,” Shaw said.

What started as pop ups and dinners grew into night markets and more mentorship opportunities for Vu and his friends.

“What started off as something that was like fun became very apparent that it was a huge need that, that the city needed help with and our community needed help with. And so over the years it just kind of grew and grew and you know, it finally got to the point where it was, it grew beyond my capacity,” Vu said.

Right now, there are two chefs in the club’s first cohort, and after six months, they’ll graduate, and a new batch will take their place.

“It makes me really happy, you know, we’re, at the end of the day, we’re a conduit for talent and we hope that we can just nurture everybody and try to do our part at least and bring in the best out of them and hopefully they leave with something as well,” Vu said.